Thunder Bay

Sasquatch reports wanted: new group collecting sightings from Thunder Bay region

Have you seen something strange in the woods north of Lake Superior? If so, Great Lakes Sasquatch wants to hear all about it.

Great Lakes Sasquatch research effort launched after strange encounter in Minnesota

The iconic frame 352 still of the Patterson-Gimlin film, which allegedly depicts a female Bigfoot, also known as sasquatch, looking back at Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. A newly-formed Minnesota research effort is looking for reports of sasquatch encounters, or other strange incidents, from Western Ontario. (Bob Gimlin/YouTube)

Have you seen something strange in the woods north of Lake Superior?

If so, Great Lakes Sasquatch wants to hear all about it.

The Minnesota-based researchers are collecting reports of strange encounters from the Great Lakes area, which includes western Ontario and Manitoba, as well as parts of Minnesota, the upper Michigan peninsula, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

And it all started with a very personal encounter, said Chris Fruetel, one of the people behind the effort.

"Me and my girlfriend, who I've been with for a long time, we had an experience happen to us in northern Minnesota," Fruetel said. "It was pretty unexplainable."

"It's always on our mind; we can't seem to shake it," he said. "You go through something that pretty much changes your whole perception of reality, and you're in an environment that you've been visiting your whole life, been doing outdoor stuff your whole life, and then something strange happens, and you can't explain it."

"It kind of consumes you."

Strange encounter

The encounter took place in the Foot Hills State Forest during a June 2016 camping trip, Fruetel said.

"Usually on weekends, it's pretty busy," Fruetel said. "But the way my work schedule is ... I'm fortunate enough where I get to stay longer than just the weekend; I can stay, usually, til like a Wednesday."

"We got to enjoy a couple of days with no other people camping there," he said. "We were the only group."

It was early on a Tuesday, about 1 a.m., Fruetel recalled, as he and a few others sat around the fire, listening to frogs, crickets, and the hooting of barred owls.

"Maybe one or two hundred yards away, to our east, this vocalization starts happening," he said. "It's really hard to describe what it sounded like; it sounded unlike anything I've ever heard. The closest thing that I could think of that it sounded like was apes."

The others around the fire looked at Fruetel, since he's an experienced camper and hunter.

"I've done a lot of solo camping, and primitive camping," he said. "And just hunting, specifically coyote hunting, so I'm pretty used to hearing the sounds at night."

'Primal' fear

"Not only was it odd, and it sounded like apes, but it was extremely powerful," Fruetel said. "It was loud, and it had a huge lung capacity. It was able to belt out this powerful sound for between 20 and 30 seconds straight."

And when the sound died down, Fruetel said, everything was silent. There were no chirping crickets or croaking frogs.

"It was just dead air," he said. "This is the only time in my life I got this, it was almost like a primal sense of fear that came over me."

"It was unreal, the type of fear that came over me."

The group left the next day, and Fruetel spent a couple of weeks researching the area's animals, trying to find something that sounded similar to what he heard.

"I wasn't finding anything that was coming close," he said. "At one point, I googled ape sounds in North American woods ... thinking okay, there's this animal that, you know, it makes these kind of monkey-ish kind of sounds sometimes, you know. I was hoping to come across that."

Instead, he found recordings of purported sasquatch vocalizations.

"I gave them a listen, and they sounded very, very similar to what I was hearing," Fruetel said. "In the comments of those videos ... they like to say 'oh, that's not Bigfoot, that's something else.' But nobody can seem to have an answer what that something else is."

That piqued Fruetel's interest in the topic, and realizing there aren't many groups collecting data about encounters with sasquatch or other cryptids in the Great Lakes area, Great Lakes Sasquatch was born.

However, his own personal experience wasn't the only motivation.

"Also, it's for these people, too, who have this kind of amazing thing happen to them, and they're afraid to talk about it, because no one's going to take them seriously," Fruetel said. "They can just get it off their chest."

Glowing red lights

As for the project itself, "it's me and my girlfriend doing it together," Fruetel said.

They currently operate a Twitter account, which was launched in July, and accept submissions via email.

When he spoke to CBC, Fruetel said he'd so far received eight substantial reports (as well as several that were light on detail, and whose submitters couldn't be reached for any sort of follow-up, and have thus been disregarded).

"I was hoping I would get more out of western Ontario," he said. "I haven't gotten any sasquatch sightings out of there yet."

That's not to say he doesn't have any reports from the area, however. One individual contacted Fruetel and told of an encounter with something while he was out smelt fishing one night (the witness didn't disclose the exact location, so "western Ontario" is as specific as it gets in this case).

The man reported "glowing red lights" floating in the woods, Fruetel said.

"He said he watched these glowing lights for a little bit, and then they did very quick manoeuvres above him," Fruetel said. "He said he ran to the truck and left very quickly."

As far as actual sasquatch reports go, however, Fruetel has received a number of reports from Manitoba.

Crossed a road in 'three steps'

"I got one in northern Manitoba, near the town of The Pas," he said. "A group of guys had a moose camp up there, and they found a nine-inch footprint in the mud."

"There's plenty of humans with nine inches, or even larger, feet," Fruetel said. "But what was odd about it was wide: it looked about twice as wide as a human's foot would."

Fruetel said the print was very deep in the mud, and "had a wide heel, the foot didn't taper towards the heel like a human's foot would."

The group covered the print with a tarp, and brought a life-long hunter and trapper to look at the print, which was found in a very remote area, only accessible by boat.

"He was just dumbfounded by it, too," Fruetel said.

Another Manitoba incident took place in the Powerview-Pine Falls, area, and involved an actual sighting of a large, hairy figure as it crossed a road.

"It appeared to be eight feet tall," Fruetel said. "It crossed the road in three steps. Completely bipedal, and it had a human-type stride."

"It almost appeared to glide. The head didn't bounce as it walked, like a human's does."

That sighting was a brief one, however, and no other details were provided.

'We'd like to hear it'

Another notable bit of Manitoba weirdness involved a couple walking along Lake Winnipeg at dusk, when they were suddenly overcome by a feeling of being watched.

Then, they saw a set of eyes, about seven feet off the ground, in the brush.

"They got out of there," Fruetel said. "Something bipedal paralleled them, stayed in the brush but it paralleled them and walked with them as they got out of that area."

Fruetel says Great Lakes Sasquatch is looking for all manner of strange encounters in the woods, whether they involve a possible sasquatch, or something else entirely.

"Pretty much the criteria is the areas we're covering," he said. "If it happened in the woods and it's weird, we'd like to hear it."

For more information, search Great Lakes Sasquatch on Twitter.