Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 22

TRACKING

B GFOOT
Salem man records, investigates
sightings of local legends

Top: A photo of a mysterious, upright figure taken by
a horseback rider in northwest Arkansas is among the
items in Emmett Reary's collection of Bigfoot evidence.
Above: The Salem chiropractor has investigated more
than 150 local sightings of the legend since 2008.

by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

to believe people are seeing something in the woods.
Something they are convinced is not normal.
"People that live in the Ozarks, they hunt, they
n Florida you might hear the term "skunk ape,"
in the Pacific Northwest perhaps "Sasquatch." fish - they know what they see," Emmett says.
Depending on where you go around the Show- "Most of them know the difference between a bear
Me State, you might hear different names for and something walking upright with long legs."
Commonalities are present among the stories
a similar creature: The Blue Man. The Wild Man.
to which Emmett gives more credence: noxious
Momo. The Missouri Monster. Bigfoot.
So what lurks in the woods of eastern Dent odors, crude shelters built from vines and rocks
County? Emmett Reary has an idea. Having lived thrown seemingly from nowhere. Some may be the
and practiced in the area for 40 years, the Salem work of practical jokers, while others are less easily
chiropractor has become a confidante for locals and explained: bent pieces of solid metal, 4x4 boards
snapped off cement bases and cedar trees 4 inches
their stories.
It all started with mountain lions. Ever since in diameter twisted out of the ground. Among the
moving to Salem, Emmett had heard the old timers more unusual finds were a deer carcass stuffed into
talk about large black cats that roamed the area. the fork of a tree and a pair of dead goats dissembled
One night in 1990, he saw such an animal cross the into neat piles of bone and hide.
Despite the grisly details of some cases, Emmett
road at Standing Rock Bridge on Gladden Creek. He
began talking to neighbors, and most had a story to says the creatures aren't dangerous to humans.
"I know a lot of skeptics aren't going to believe it
tell about mountain lions. Since
until a dead body comes in and I don't want that
some sources reported seeing
to happen," Emmett says. "I want people to be
kittens, Emmett disagreed with
aware, but not to be scared. I truly believe they
the Missouri Department of
are harmless. We'd know otherwise."
Conservation's determination that
Then there are the pieces of physical
there was no breeding population
evidence he's photographed and collected:
of the big cats in Missouri. He wrote
a handprint 10 inches long left on a
a newspaper column asking others
Salem
friend's garage and footprints measured
to come forward with their stories.
between 14 and 16 inches long. The
But instead of mountain lion
bulk of sightings Emmett investigates
sightings what he got was Bigfoot.
originate around Mark Twain National
"I had no interest in Bigfoot at t h a t
Forest and Indian Trail Conservation Area,
point," Emmet says, adding the stories continued to
but have come from as far away as Gainesville and
stream in and eventually his interest was piqued.
"I try to be as scientific as possible about all this, as close as the outskirts of Salem. Emmett says
and I feel like if I totally ignore it that's not really he's also found footprints during hikes on nearby
scientific. I was skeptical at first, and even now Buford Mountain. He's had his fair share of prank
when I hear stories I am looking for every natural calls, too, but Emmett's heard and seen too much to
dismiss the claims of neighbors and friends.
cause I can think of."
If the local Bigfoot sightings are a hoax, it's an
Over the past nine years, Emmett has recorded
more than 150 Bigfoot cases submitted to him by elaborate and well-organized ruse that's taken not
locals. They range from hearing strange noises in just Missouri but the nation by storm for half a
the night to actually seeing the creature, either century. Since footage of a shaggy, ape-like creature
slinking about the woods or quickly crossing a road. crossing a wilderness creek in the Pacific Northwest
Similar to the mountain lion stories, so many was released in 1967, the U.S. has experienced
reports from so many varied sources leads Emmett bouts of Bigfoot mania. Whether people believed the

I

22

RURAL MISSOURI | OCTOBER 2017

famous film shot by Roger Patterson and Bob
Gimlin was a well-executed trick or solid proof
that something unbeknownst to modern science
walked the woods, Bigfoot found a path to popular
culture. Television shows, lawn ornaments and car
air fresheners capture some version of that familiar
shape caught lumbering through the forest.
Among the evidence Emmett has collected is a
photo that bears eerie similarity to the PattersonGimlin footage, now 50 years old. A horseback
rider was out on the trail in the winter of 2012 near
Fayetteville, Arkansas when she spotted a furry,
dark biped in the woods. The picture she took on
her phone's camera - of a shadowy, two-legged
silhouette moving up a timbered ridge - is like
many Bigfoot photographs: hard to fully accept one
way or the other and equally hard to look away from.
"It's a controversial thing. I've had loggers tell
me, 'Well, I'm out in the woods every day and I've
never seen anything,' " Emmett says, adding that
other loggers, ministers and members of local law
enforcement are among those who have sourced his
records. "I'm not here to convince people - that's
not my job. I'm just here to collect information."
Emmett's opinion is that he is pretty much
certain, but not 100 percent convinced, these stories
add up to the popular image of Bigfoot - a giant
ape that could be a surviving relative of prehistoric
primates called Gigantopicthecus. His research into
the subject continues a long tradition of Bigfoot
legend and lore in Missouri. Tales of Momo swept
the river town of Louisiana in the early 1970s. Some
accounts of the creature in southeast Missouri
stretch back to at least the 1940s.
Whether people believe in or deny Bigfoot's
existence, Emmett believes the subject will remain
as interesting as it is controversial.
"It's a mystery, and people like a good mystery,"
Emmett says. "There are more questions than
answers, but I think we just have to keep searching
for the truth."
Emmett can
embarqmail.com.

be

contacted

at

erreary52@



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2017

Contents
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Intro
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Contents
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 4
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Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Cover4
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