Thicket to Hide

Bigfoot Is Hiding in the Big Thicket

He’s just very hard to find.

By Michael Hardy April 30, 2014 Published in the May 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine


We’re resting on a log in the Big Thicket, enjoying the silence.

“Do you notice anything?” asks our guide, Rob Riggs.

We notice that there aren’t any birds chirping and wonder if that’s normal.

 “No,” Riggs says. He listens carefully. “It is pretty quiet. Well, we may have one around.” 

This reminds us of something the 68-year-old said earlier in the day, over coffee in his sister’s kitchen. “One of the things that will often happen in a Bigfoot encounter is that things will go dead silent in the woods—all the insects and the birds will go quiet for unknown reasons. And that ain’t natural.”  

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We’re in the middle of the woods in snake country, on a log beside a rotund man wearing a camouflage baseball cap and a magnetic bracelet, and we are afraid.  

Riggs tells us that he first heard legends of a giant ape marauding through the woods of East Texas while growing up in Sour Lake, a small town just outside the Big Thicket. This was in the ’50s, when the beast was known variously as Booger, Hairy Wild Man, Swamp Beast, Old Mossy Back. No name really stuck until later in the decade, when a creature of similar description was discovered in northern California, a creature soon dubbed Bigfoot. 

At first, Riggs discounted the stories. “I just assumed there was some kind of reasonable explanation for these sightings, that it wasn’t possible that there was any kind of hairy monster in the woods.” He left home for college and didn’t move back to East Texas until 1979, when he became a reporter for the Kountze News, the largest publication in Kountze (Wikipedia: “home to the world’s only known pair of married armadillos”). 

When Riggs ran a notice in the paper calling for stories of unusual sightings in the woods, he was deluged with letters. A teenage girl claimed that a giant ape had chased her away from a cemetery. A couple in a car on Ghost Road—the local lovers’ lane—reported that Bigfoot jumped on their hood, forcing the man, who fortunately had his shotgun handy, to scare the creature away by firing at it through the front windshield.

From these accounts, Riggs concluded that there was at least one large, hairy beast walking around area forests (in conversation, he estimated the animal’s size at eight feet tall and 1,000 pounds), and in 2001 he published his findings in a book, In the Big Thicket: On the Trail of the Wild Man. Two books later, Riggs now believes that Bigfoot(s) use bioradiational energy and telepathic powers to hide from humans, a theory he unfolds in his just-released opus  Bigfoot: Exploring the Myth and Discovering the Truth. (Llewelyn, its publisher, specializes in “the very best in metaphysical books and resources.”) Bigfoots must use something, otherwise Riggs would have seen one during the more than three decades he’s been looking. 

It’s true: Riggs remains Bigfoot-less to this day, although he did hear a howl once while camping overnight in the Big Thicket. (“There’s no way I can adequately describe how loud that was.”) His friend Tom Burnette, who lives in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, has been luckier. A fellow Bigfoot scholar and the co-author of Riggs’s new book, Burnette claims to have photographed the elusive beast twice with motion-activated cameras. Some might say that the pictures depict 1) the backside of a bear, and 2) a blob that could be anything, but they are wrong.  It is Bigfoot.   

Riggs would like photos of his own, of course, and to that end has moved into a Chaparral camper on the edge of the Thicket in order to mount cameras and set out bait. 

But for now, his only option is to wait, watch, and listen. He sits, ever hopeful, on a log in the woods, listening to the wind and scanning the horizon for movement. We do the same. For quite some time. It takes a woodpecker to break the silence. 

“Man, I’d give my right nut for one to show up,” Riggs says, sighing wistfully.

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