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Large footprint impressions create a path through mud.
Representations of Bigfoot footprints appear outside the Bigfoot Crossroads of America Museum that was once Harriett McFeely's wedding chapel in Hastings, a city in south-central Nebraska. Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Prints and Photography Division, Library of Congress. Carol M. Highsmith Archive (LC-DIG-highsm- 69898)

On the trail of Bigfoot in the Library of Congress

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Library research guides are wonderful opportunities to discover interesting items in the Library’s collections – for the creator of the guide as well as for the library patron. My experiences working on a new National Heritage Area research guide recently was no different. I may have started researching AFC’s collections related to historic landscapes and traditional practices, but I ended up in search of Bigfoot.

While looking for collections relevant to the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area, I typed in the search term “Tacoma.” The first hit on the search caught my eye.

A screenshot of the top three results in a Library of Congress catalog search. The first result shows: Corinne and Frank Fasinski interview on Sasquatch [sound recording].
Screenshot of an LOC Catalog search displaying an interview about Sasquatch.
I pulled the interview up on my computer and gave it a listen. Purely in the interest of research, of course (The Fasinski interview is only available onsite; patrons wishing to listen to it should make an appointment to visit the American Folklife Center Reading Room).

The interview was recorded by Norman and Helen Custis at the Fasinski home in 1973. In the recording Corinne Fasinski, surrounded by her husband and other friends who have heard her story before, recounts the fervor that grew up around a slew of Bigfoot sightings in and around the town of Orting, Washington in the early 1970s. A schoolteacher at the time, Corinne remembers the elementary school children – and even some of the teachers – being terrified of encountering the creature in the woods. Although she never saw it herself and claims to be a skeptic about its existence, Corinne provides a description of the creature, as given by the Orting townsfolk who claim to have encountered it.

“Well, he’s hairy. Only he doesn’t come out in the snow. He lives in the forest. […] He’s an animal, he’s sort of like a big ape man. He walks on two feet. But he’s all hairy and he lives back in the woods and people sight him every now and again and then they get their shotguns out and form posses. […] He’s got red, sort of real beady eyes, and they’re shiny. […] They shine, the eyes shine out. That’s about all you can see out of its face.”                                                  – Corinne Fasinski, Tacoma, Washington

During the interview, Corinne acknowledges that the Sasquatch is known throughout the Pacific Northwest and even references other stories she has heard about a similar creature in Missouri and Kansas. Near the end of the recording, Norman Custis mentions that the tribes whose traditional homelands include the areas around Orting have similar stories. Frank, Corinne’s husband, acknowledges that the legend has been around for generations and that he is not surprised to learn about the other stories.

Color photograph of the outside wall of "The Sasquatch Outpost." The wall features a large painted figure of Sasquatch, along with signs for "Bigfoot Stuff" and "Camping Supplies"
The Sasquatch Outpost gift shop in Bailey, Colorado. Sasquatch, or “Bigfoot,” is thought to be a mythical apelike creature said to inhabit remote forests, more often in the American Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho) rather than Colorado. Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Prints and Photograph Division, Library of Congress. Carol M. Highsmith Archive (LC-DIG-highsm- 34969 (ONLINE) [P&P])
That got me wondering if there were more Sasquatch or Bigfoot stories in our archive. At first, a quick keyword search through our records failed to turn up any others, but whether that was because they do not exist or because they simply were not categorized under that term is unclear. It wasn’t until I entered “sasquatch” into the Library’s digital collections search bar (located in the top right corner of the Library’s main page) that I managed to locate another item within AFC’s collection.

The recording, made in 1977 and lasting a little over 15 minutes, is part of the American English Dialect Recordings, from the Center for Applied Linguistics Collection. Made between 1941 and 1984, the collection – which includes 118 hours of recordings! – was a part of a project intended to study the differences in North American English dialects which may emerge related to “gender, race, social class, education, age, literacy, ethnic background, and occupational group.” While most of the recordings are of average Americans, the collection also includes recordings of more well-known individuals such as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Fiorello H. La Guardia, and Amelia Earhart.

In this particular case, the individual being interviewed is only identified in the transcript as “K,” a 17-year-old white teenager living about 40 miles northeast of Knoxville in White Pine,Tennessee. The recording begins with a prompt from Michael Montgomery, the individual doing the collecting, and at first “K” seems reluctant to share his story. He points out that he does not like to tell the story, as people tend to call him a fool. “Somebody always cut me down, made fun of me anyway.” Nevertheless, K soon begins telling Michael about finding a cave that later mysteriously disappeared, despite him knowing “them woods like the palm of my hand.”

He goes on to talk about the time he actually came across one, and provides a description of it.

“I’ve seen it. […] I’d say about eight, nine foot tall. It’s covered with hair about two inches long, and the face, I can, I know, I can see the face in my mind, but you can’t really describe it. It’s something that you, that you know what it looks like. You’d know it if you ever seen it again, but even like I said, if you was to see it and then run back up here and tell me, you still couldn’t describe it. It’s just that kind of face. It’s sort of an old-man-looking face. That’s about the only thing you can think of. It looks something like an old man and its face is, just looks like hide, like raw, you know, real tough hide. And it stands about eight or nine foot tall. It’s a big ole thing.” – K, White Pine, Tennessee

When asked what kind of noise the creature makes, K likens it to a growl of a dog that had treed a possum but insists that “they compared it with every animal, they said, and they ain’t another animal can make a sound like it. It hits certain tones that you just, nothing can, nothing else can hit.” He then claims that the creature has thrown a stick at him before, “for aggravating it.”

In the recording, Michael asks “K” if anyone else has seen Bigfoot in the area. K gives the name of one of his friends – name redacted in the archive files – and shares their encounter with the creature:

“They went down there, you know, and was talking, and they heard something splashing, and they turned around and looked, and they said it was a real tall thing but it was humped over and the back of its hands was walking through that water and it’d splash as it went. In the world today I don’t disbelieve nothing unless, you know, they’ve got evidence against it. I don’t particularly believe everything, but I mean I don’t disbelieve everything either.” – K, White Pine, Tennessee

Despite being spooked while discovering the disappearing cave, his experience with Bigfoot in the forests of Tennessee only seemed to increase K’s interest in the diversity of animals that exist in the world. Immediately after discussing Bigfoot, K shows Michael his book about Komodo Dragons and professes to be a “great admirer of all kinds of animals.”

While these are the only mentions of Bigfoot and Sasquatch I have come across in AFC’s collections so far, the figure makes appearances in several other divisions throughout the Library. For instance, a recent entry on the Library’s Instagram account for #LibraryShelfieDay shows Reference Librarian Carissa Pastuch holding a map of Bigfoot sightings from the Geography & Map Division. Over in the Prints & Photograph Division, several photographs from the Carol Highsmith collection feature the familiar furry cryptid.

Screenshot of the LOC Instagram page, which includes a photograph of Geography and Maps specialist Carissa Pastuch holding a map of Bigfoot sightings from California, alongside the post's original caption.
Reference Librarian Carissa Pastuch holds a map of California Bigfoot sightings from the Geography & Map Division. Library of Congress Instagram account.

Upon learning that I was looking into the Bigfoot stories in our archives, my co-workers at the American Folklife Center directed me to the archive deck, where our subject files are kept. AFC maintains a subject file on Bigfoot, along with one on the Skunk Ape (Florida’s particularly odiferous version of Bigfoot) and a more general one on cryptozoology, which includes articles on legendary creatures such as the Mothman, the Goat Man, and the Loch Ness Monster. I was surprised — and perhaps a bit pleased — to see that some East Coast mentions were included in the file. After all, stories of a large not-bear-but-not-human creature that lives in the woods may be most well-known in the Pacific Northwest, but both my Munsee-Delaware family and other Indigenous people throughout the Eastern side of the United States have similar stories. Amongst my favorite finds in the subject files were a faux Sasquatch Hunting Permit sticker (specifying a limit of two per season), a Washington Post article on the fierce divide between West Coast and East Coast Bigfoot researchers, and a photocopy of a animal complaint report from Anne Arundel County in Maryland.

Items from AFC's Bigfoot subject file are laid out on a desk. Items include a Washington Post article on Bigfoot researchers, a faux Sasquatch Hunting Permit sticker, and a photocopy of an animal incident police report.
A snapshot of a faux Sasquatch Hunting Permit and a photocopy of an animal incident police report, found in AFC’s Bigfoot subject file. Photo by Meg Nicholas.

The report stated the following:

“On 7-31-00 I was working secondary employment at the Arundel Mills Mall Construction Site when I was contacted by Western midnight supervision who advised me that they had received and responded to a call involving the sighting of a very large animal. They also advised that three construction workers who were from South Carolina had been staying on the site in their van. They claimed they saw a large 12 foot animal at the site and observed it run away on two legs very quickly. I was advised by Western that they responded and saw animal eyes in the area but could not determine what the animal was. They said the reporting persons got scared away and went to a Roy Rogers parking lot on Dorsey Road.

I responded to the location and after several minutes of asking them to show me the location of footprints, they agreed and responded back to Arundel Mills. They showed me the area which the animal fled to and after a brief search a large footprint was located on the side of the hill. We continued searching and after a few minutes I noticed the reflection of a pair of eyes near the sediment pond of some type of animal. Upon showing the workers the eyes they stated ‘we’re getting out of here’ and ran down the hill, got in their van, and left. I got in my vehicle and drove down to the sediment pond however observed no other activity. At that time I turned off my lights and sat at the location for approx. 20 minutes, checking periodically with my spot light. Shortly thereafter I lit the area up and observed a very large animal on the side of the hill near the sediment pond. The animal was black in color and initially seemed to have no fur on its legs/arms. The animal was sitting there looking directly at my patrol car and was not moving. I blew my air horn several times and the animal still did not move or jerk in any way. After about 45 seconds the animal started moving down the other side of the hill it was sitting on and disappeared. I did not see the animal the rest of the night.

I contacted DNR and asked them to respond for print identification and help in determining what kind of animal it was however they advised they had no one working and were unable to come out. I however contacted them this morning in reference for follow-up if they feel it is necessary. The footprint I observed was approx. 15-20 inches large and was shaped like a human print. At this time I cannot identify what animal the witnesses had seen however from the limited time I had view of my sighting I believed it to be a bear.”

I love reading reports like this one. The reporting officer’s account of the evening is matter-of-fact and yet still evokes the feeling of being out on the scene that evening, seeing a large something staring back from the dark. I love the detail that the witnesses who originally called in the sighting had relocated to a Roy Rogers parking lot in the meantime and, when they saw the eyes reflected in the spotlight, promptly left the site a second time. The animal in question may have ended up being a bear, but it still makes for a great story.

In addition to these resources, my search has also unearthed a copy of AFC’s 2018 Mummer’s Play featuring Bigfoot, a woodblock illustration of a bigfoot-like creature called Yama-chichi in Prints & Photograph Division, a comic titled “Birchsquatch” in the Newspaper & Current Periodical special collections, and two results in Recorded Sound that I am itching to listen to: “The bigfoot recordings Volume 2” (as far as I can tell, the Library only has the 2nd volume) and “Bigfoot town, a Christmas rock opera.”

Clearly, there are some more interesting Bigfoot-themed items hiding throughout the Library’s special collections waiting to be rediscovered by the next unsuspecting researcher. Until next time, intrepid cryptid hunters!

A closeup of a large Bigfoot figure, taken at the Bigfoot Crossroads of America Museum.
This is Forest, a gigantic Bigfoot figure at the Bigfoot Crossroads of America Museum, created in the home of Bigfoot true believer Harriett McFeely in Hastings, Nebraska. Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Prints and Photograph Division, Library of Congress. Carol M. Highsmith Archive (LC-DIG-highsm- 69726)

 

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Comments (3)

  1. Thank you for this fascinating overview of Library of Congress archival holdings on Bigfoot! Fun see and hear. I will add an item from the American Folklife Center’s collections that connects a couple of interesting dots in the exploration of this topic. The brothers Burl and Sherman Hammons of Marlinton, West Virginia, tell about their father’s encounters with a hairy, manlike beast in the nearby mountains. A recording of Burl’s 1969 telling of the story to Dwight Diller is on the American Folklife Center tape identified as AFS 22952, and it is also transcribed on pages 20-21 in the booklet for the published recording “The Hammons Family: A Study of a West Virginia Family’s Traditions,” alas, not currently available on the AFC web site. But here’s a segment of the story: “And they said it made a track—and my dad said that he kept it covered up there, he said, till they, till they went to come back in, and he said them old fellers looked at it and they said they never seen a track like that. They didn’t know what it was. And he said it was as big as a man’s track. But he said alright but the heel, he said, he said it ran right back right sharp, he said, back next to the heel it run right sharp, kindly sharp back at the heel, he said. And he said it made a track just exactly like a man’s track. Now you know, boys, there couldn’t have been nobody in that country way back in there now, barefoot, well gosh, miles and miles and miles in that, back in the head of that Cherry River.” I transcribed the story for the Hammons family documentation project and used the spelling yayho to represent the family’s pronunciation of the name for the animal. It seems certain, of course, that all of this harks back to the yahoo famous from Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels,” but the Hammonses did not say “ya-hoo.” There is also an intriguing link to the eastern mountain frontier via Daniel Boone, often described as fan of Swift’s book. I’m relying on John Mack Faragher’s 1993 biography, which includes an account of Boone telling a story about “killing a ten-foot, hairy giant he called a ‘Yahoo.’ The Yahoos were giant beasts in human shape from Boone’s favorite book, Gulliver’s Travels. It was a tall tale that Boone repeated to a number of people during his last year, one such as he would have told in a winter camp.”

    • Thank you for providing insight into more of the Bigfoot-related collection items in the AFC archive, Carl! I will have to pull up the tape you referenced and take a listen.

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