Seventy miles past Whitesville, two hours west of the Old Frankfort Pike, roundabout the joint end of the chicken leg of the fifteenth state to enter the Union, I crossed into the thirty-seven parallel’s most hallowed Squatchin’ ground. The sky was a disappointment—low, gridlocked clouds, their edges drooping like an overhanging roof, and just past the county line, a wall of rain—but the road was flat, straight, plain sailing. I’d come here because Charlie Raymond, founder of the Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization (KBRO), had asked if I wanted to join his fall expedition. A bunch of us would be camping out, taking long hikes through the woods, and comparing notes. I’d reached out to Charlie and explained how I hoped to chronicle Bigfooters in my third favorite state. He was keen to have me along, he said, given one proviso: any true Bigfooter, like any true fisherman, had proprietary feelings for the loci of his former success. “It’s like a fishing hole,” another Bigfooter had told me. “Once you find a place you like, why go anywhere else? Otherwise, you’ll wind up chasing unicorns and gnomes.” So to protect what Charlie called his “research area,” I’d withhold the exact location. I can tell you it was reminiscent, at first, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the 1980s: fallow fields bordered by goldenrod and autumn olive; mile after mile of wood fencing and rangy roadside weeds; pickup trucks of indeterminate vintage; a derelict gas station with broken fluorescent lightbulbs and Swisher butts and plastic Schnapps bottles strewn around the parking area, and above the toilet in a fetid men’s room, a handwritten sign: C’mon, Guys. —the Mgmt.
Probably most folks wouldn’t peg Kentucky as a Bigfoot hotbed. Until pretty recently, neither did Bigfooters. With the exception of John Green’s totemic Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, Kentucky hadn’t been cited in any of the books I’d read. Green mentions it only in passing. But as Charlie Raymond liked to point out, this was merely an oversight. In a state with twelve million forested acres and a population density comparable to Washington’s, why not here? Intending to put the subject on the table, Charlie founded the KBRO in 1997 as a “non-kill research group which seeks to prove the existence of, and protect of [sic], these magnificent creatures,” according to its website. Sightings multiplied. Charlie, a web designer by trade, became a local expert, guide, investigator, and Bigfoot booster, despite never having seen one himself in three decades of searching (“I’m a believer, not a knower,” he’d told me). Of all the Bigfooters I’d met, Charlie was the most devout. It was largely because of him that Kentucky was now ranked fourteenth in the BFRO’s national sightings database, with 114 since 1995.
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