Bigfoot has captured the imaginations of young and old alike across the United States. With numerous TV shows, books, museums and conventions dedicated to him, Bigfoot has become one of the most well-known cryptids in the U.S. While most Bigfoot sightings are often reported in states like Washington and California, the Appalachian region is also rumored to be home to this mysterious creature.
The Appalachian Bigfoot may also be known as the Tennessee Wild Man, but it is unclear whether they are considered the same creature, or if the Tennessee Wild Man is a sort of cousin to Bigfoot.
So, what exactly is a Bigfoot? I met with Bigfoot expert Dr. Russell Jones, author of “The Appalachian Bigfoot” and “Tracking the Stone Man: West Virginia’s Bigfoot,” to learn more. Jones says that Bigfoot is a primate similar to humans.
Dr. Jones thinks Bigfoot could be Gigantopithecus, a genus of ape, or Paranthropus, a genus of hominin. He believes the Gigantopithecus theory makes sense, due to evidence of their travel patterns and concentration of sightings in the Pacific Northwest.
“10,000 to 20,000 years ago, Gigantopithecus would’ve come across the Bering Land Bridge through Beringia and then came down through the Pacific Northwest. Makes a lot of sense because it was the right time; it was the right size. That’s the place where most of the sightings are,” said Jones.
Both the Gigantopithecus and Paranthropus are thought to be extinct by scientists, so if giant apes or hominins are living in the Appalachian region, why isn’t their presence widely known? According to Jones, Bigfoot is extremely rare. He equated finding one to trying to find a lost dog in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Even if you know the area, it may still prove challenging. Still, Jones says there is a large amount of evidence and hundreds of sightings.
I was curious about what others in the Appalachian region thought about Bigfoot, so I put a call out on the Appalachian Cryptids and Folklore Facebook group. I received a few comments from local researchers, people who heard stories about Bigfoot, and one comment that simply said to go to Legends & Lore and ask for Eddie.
So, I headed over to Madisonville, TN, to meet with Eddie Robinson, Bigfoot enthusiast, paranormal investigator and owner of Legends & Lore Pizzeria, home of the strangely delicious pickle pizza.
Eddie has been fascinated with Bigfoot since childhood, and you can see his passion for Bigfoot reflected in his restaurant. The walls are lined with Bigfoot paraphernalia and pictures from Bigfoot conventions he and his wife have attended. Even the menu is cryptid themed, with offerings like Mothman BBQ pizza.
I asked Eddie the same question I asked Dr. Jones. What is a Bigfoot? Eddie said he is open to the possibility of Bigfoot being something concrete, like the giant ape Dr. Jones mentioned, or something more unearthly. He recalled a time that a ranger sighted what was believed to be a Bigfoot in the Tellico Plains area. It seemed to have a 7-foot stride and ran much faster than a deer.
I wondered if there was a difference between the Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest and the Bigfoot of Appalachia. Eddie said the Bigfoot of Appalachia seemed to be more curious about humans, whereas the Pacific Northwest Bigfoot was more aggressive. Some people in the Appalachian region leave gifts of food on tree stumps for the Bigfoot and later find them replaced with bird feathers or stones.
One thing Eddie and Dr. Jones have in common is that they both have had Bigfoot encounters. Dr. Jones recalled a hunting trip in his childhood. It was snowing, and he and a friend were rabbit hunting. During their hunt, he came across tracks that looked like barefooted human feet. Several months later, hunting in the same area, Dr. Jones heard something in the distance. “But then I started hearing something very monkey-like start screaming and shaking the bushes, which…it’s classic Bigfoot behavior,” Jones recalled.
Eddie recounted a similar experience out in the wild. He heard three distinct screams that were much lower than you would expect a bobcat’s to be. He said the screams felt like bass hitting him in the chest, and they had a guttural quality.
If you want to have your own Bigfoot encounter, what should you look for? First, look for large tracks that are similar to a human’s, but much bigger and with a sixth toe. Listen for their calls which vary from grunting to whooping to yelling. You could also consider leaving gifts for Bigfoot, perhaps the Sasquatch pizza from Legends & Lore! As Eddie says, “Keep it squatchy!”