If you mention the term “Bigfoot Country” to those who have an interest in the weird, a very specific picture will come to their minds. They see miles of mountainous tall trees somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. They imagine Canada. The Patterson-Gimlin film clip, of a tall broad shape moving quickly into the thick of the old tree growth often springs right away in the mind. All of these are accurate to the lore, but they aren’t the whole picture. Often, folks don’t realize that there are sightings on record of the big guy in 49 states here in the USA. Hawaii is the only place that I can’t seem to find a history of Bigfoot….although they have their own hairy oddity that stands about 3 feet tall and seems to be a cousin of the Harry and the Henderson’s type we imagine on the mainland.
So you can imagine my delight when I found out we have a wealth of Bigfoot lore, not just here in Massachusetts but in my own backyard of Western Massachusetts. These stories seem to stretch back in time to at least the 1800’s if not earlier. People are still seeing things today, and each of these areas have their own names for their shaggy woodland neighbor.
Roughly 40 minutes from the place I call home is a body of water called the Cobble Mountain reservoir. This lake is surrounded by thick forest that is dotted with small home properties, and occasionally a small bit of cleared farm land. The towns around it tend to be small typical new England settlements. This means a small downtown area of a church or two, government offices, and a few storefronts. After that more fields and trees. These are places like Russell, Granville, Hungtington, and Blandford. However, Westfield, a small city of around 40,000 people, is also only about 20 minutes away from the lake.
Talk to the locals, especially the older ones who have been on their plots of land for 60 or so years, and you’ll start hearing about the Cobble Mountain Critter. There’s even a punk band from Vermont called “Gang of Thieves” that did a song by that same name. It’s a local story, but a fairly well-known local story in many odd circles.
The Critter fits most descriptions of your typical Bigfoot type creature. He’s said to be about 7.5 feet tall, and built like the kind of linebacker the New England Patriots would scoop up with a multi million dollar contract. Most reports say that he is covered with shaggy brown, or red-brown hair. You’ll occasionally find a report that says he has black hair. Even rarer, a few reports note a slightly cone-shape to the skull.
Funny enough, the critter seems to be fairly hard to find online. As a kid, I had an Aunt in Chester Mass who’s neighbors told me about the critter. When I attended Westfield State college in the area, several professors and students talked about their own sightings to me. But when it comes to actually finding official reports, it’s hard to locate anything in writing.
Occasionally though, you find a report online from the area even if they don’t use the exact name “Cobble Mountain Critter.” The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has a report on its website of a fisherman who, in the year 2000, had snuck into the area for some night fishing encountering something big in the dark. While the man never got a clear view of it, he said something approached him with very human sounding strides. He got a look at a dark shape in the moonlight that was tall, with very broad shoulders. He turned a flashlight on it as it walked away and he said it looked at him and he saw eye-shine. When it reached the road nearby it gave out a “loud shrieking howl” not like anything else the witness had heard. Then man panicked and cut his line, running to his car and speeding out.
A bit more recently, they also filed a report by a Westfield man who claimed that in 2010 he went outside around 3am to have a smoke when he couldn’t sleep. He heard a series of distant but clear howling vocalizations that he described as an “undulating scream that reverberated and echoed loudly through the distant hills.” The witness also claimed to have worked as a wilderness counselor, and therefore was very familiar with animal cries and sounds. This sound fit nothing he had heard before.
One of the more interesting stories I came across was talking with a local woman. (She’s asked to remain anonymous as she’s afraid of people’s reactions to the story). We’ll call her Abby. Back in the late 1990’s when she was around 17, she camped with a group of friends in the Granville area. They were on a private piece of land owned by a relative of one of her friends. They set up a tent, and used the back of the truck they had driven in for storage. As one does when camping, they also had a fire. Late on the second evening, Abby got up and moved away from the campsite to relieve herself. She said she went far enough away so she couldn’t see the camp clearly anymore, but she was close enough to see and be somewhat lit by the firelight. She did what she needed to do, and then stood to arrange herself. At that moment, a shape stood up from the brush to her left roughly about 25 feet away. The figure was far taller than her, and she mostly saw it as a dark silhouette. She said she saw it was covered in what looked like shaggy hair, was at least 2 feet taller than she was, and very very broad shoulders. She did catch a glitter of eyes in the face. It turned and walked quickly away, and when she saw it in profile for a moment, she claimed the head had a slightly elongated cone shape to it.
As soon as it moved away, Abby ran back into camp in hysterics. She could not be calmed down, and made the group pack up and drive the truck back to the uncles house, about ½ mile away. When they told the story, the uncle told them not to worry about it. It was just the critter.
Abby told me she indeed did worry about it, and that the experience pretty much killed her desire to camp.
I should add that Abby admitted they had been drinking, and said while she wasn’t drunk, she was buzzed. I should also note that there are campgrounds in the area, some abandoned, that would not have been running that late in the year (Abby and her friends went to the property in late September or early October). The area has a population of homeless and hermit-like individuals that often use campgrounds in the off season for shelter. It is possible that what she saw was one of these individuals having a look at who was in their area at such a weird time, and both darkness and drink muddled what she saw. I have to say though, to have a woman in her 30’s now telling that story and looking just as scared as that 17 year old was is a bit unnerving.
Another member of this tribe of mysteries is said to live about 60 miles Northwest of the Critter, calling October Mountain in the Lee Massachusetts area home. This creature is often described in the same way as the Critter. Some even speculate that the October Mountain Monster is the same as the Critter, simply traveling from one area to the other through the woods of Western Mass.
The Monster has a much more extensive recorded history. The Berkshire Eagle (the local paper since 1892) has an extensive history of articles on the critter, with a spike of reporting in the early to mid 1980’s.
In Aug of 1983, a group of friends were camping near an abandoned boy scout camp called Camp Eagle in Washington Ma. They started to hear some odd noises in the woods around them, that sounded like something (or things) moving through the brush. They assumed it was your typical New England forest creatures like deer, but stayed aware as there are also bear in those woods.
After a few hours of this however, Eric Durant who was 18 at the time, decided to move a little ways from camp and scare off whatever was out there. He brought one of his friends, Fred Parody with him.
About 100 yards from camp they saw a figure. They later told the Berkshire Eagle ““It stood on two legs, silhouetted on the trail in the moonlight, and it was huge. I don’t scare easily, but it scared me.”
The two men quickly ran back to camp, collected their friends, and got out of the area.
Then in the summer of 1989 a hiker on October mountain submitted a report to the local police that he had seen a reddish brown shaggy man-like creature near the summit of the mountain. It was moving rocks and picking through the dirt to put things the man couldn’t see in its mouth. His assumption was it was hunting for bugs or roots to eat. He noted that it had extremely long arms. He watched it till it moved away into the trees on the opposite side of the small clearing and then left quickly.
I’ve found several references to this report in multiple articles online, but have yet to find if the man’s name was ever released. The BFRO has a copy of the report on their website.
Even more recently in September of 2015, roughly 40 miles north of October Mountain, an elderly couple was driving their RV through Williamstown on Rt 7. The wife looked out the window to see a tall black, bipedal creature walking a steady pace in an open field, height estimated at 9 ft. She described it with long arms at its side, and very tall while walking on two legs. It was heading toward a tree line, about 500 feet away from their vehicle. She only saw it for about 5 or 6 seconds she reported, but that line of slight was clear during the whole sighting.
Interestingly, there is an 1879 New York Times article about two young men who were hunting in the Williamstown area and encountered a “wild man” that they described “as being about five feet high, resembling a man in form and movement, but covered all over with bright red hair, and having a long straggling beard, and with very wild eyes. When first seen, the creature sprang from behind a rocky cliff and started for the woods near by.” According to the article the youths fired on it, and wounded it, which enraged it. It changed from fleeing to fighting, and chased the men away causing them to loose their guns and equipment in the hurry to get away. The article ends mentioning a hunting party being formed to find it, although one has to assume not much came of the expedition since we don’t have a stuffed Bigfoot on display anywhere.
There are also a number of reports around the web of events that are not clear sightings, but do seem pretty strange. A number of reports site clapping sounds, knocking sounds like wood against trees, eye shine that seems to come from a very tall animal in the trees, and weird screaming and grunting sounds. These are interesting but the possibility of mis-identification goes up when you’re dealing with cases that don’t involve clear sightings.
So what’s going on here in the wilds of Western Mass?
We’re looking at multiple cases, so of course there could be multiple answers. These may include…
- A genuine new animal, or more likely a population of animals, that have been seen around the are for hundreds of years if not longer.
- Something less earthly, but just as mysterious. Some believe the Bigfoot sightings in the area tie with the higher number of UFO and strange lights sighted in the area, especially on October Mountain. Alien or paranormal theories are just as popular around here as the idea that this is a missing link.
- Known animals, like bears, are being mis-identified by witnesses. This is especially likely in the cases without a physical sighting. Even in the case of a clear view its still possible. For example, while they prefer not to, bears can walk on their hind legs for a bit of a distance.
- These witnesses have fallen prey to hoaxers using the local lore to scare folks, or even mess with tourists.
- The witnesses are fabricating the stories.
- The witnesses are reporting honest experiences, but were not in a clear frame of mind and misunderstood a situation. This could be because of excessive drinking on a camping trip, being woken up by ordinary animal noises and being still in a partial sleep state, suffering from road exhaustion while driving, etc.
Each case has to be looked at individually, but it is clear that the area will continue to have these stories. After all, if they’ve been around this long, I doubt they’re going anyway. Whether the Cobble Mountain Critter and his kin are real, or just a good local yarn, I have to admit the area wouldn’t really be the same without them.