Burton on the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 32
Aug. 10-16, 2000
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Tracking Big Foot

The world is filled with mystery; for the most part, there’s an explanation. But this Big Foot has even the Enigma Project baffled.

Blessed mood,
In which the burden of mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened.
—William Wordsworth: “The Tables Turned,” 1798

Ah sweet mysteries of life, how they can add a bit of lighthearted zest to our existence — whether they be another Bigfoot sighting in North County, a suspected glimpse of Chessie on the Chesapeake or just a book building up to an exciting and unexpected finale.

The world is filled with mystery, and for the most part, there is an explanation, as there must be for the recent observation of a “12-foot-tall creature” at the Arundel Mills construction site last week at Hanover — not too far from where a yearling black bear was done in by an auto on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Less than 20 miles from the Burton household on Stoney Creek.

There has to be an answer, there always is — even if it never sees the light of day. Curious observations that can’t be explained remind me of the poem of Robert Frost, “Brown’s Descent” or “The Willy-Nilly Slide.”

Think of what the village Yankees thought when they looked up the lofty mountain to where Brown lived on his farm one winter evening long before the auto was common; Brown didn’t have one anyhow. They saw a flash of light going in all directions, fast and bright. What could it be?

For two miles the light traveled, up and down, side to side. What could it be?

Frost cleverly explained the mystery. Seems Brown was carrying his lantern to do his evening chores when …

Between house and barn the gale
Got him by something he had on
And blew him from out on the icy crust
That cased the world, and he was gone!

Brown went down the mountain, head first, feet first, sideways, every which direction, all the time holding the lantern that didn’t go out. Brown didn’t get to stop for two miles, going from field to field, gaining no foothold until he reached the river road — where he regained his foothold, stood up and thought of standing there until the January thaw.

Eventually he sidestepped the snow, returned home via the road, a matter of several miles. So it wasn’t until later that the village folks in the valley could account for lights on the mountain.

That’s One Big Bear

When and how can the Bigfoot of North County be accounted for? Who knows? If it was 12 feet, or even almost 12 feet, it couldn’t be a bear as has been speculated.

The only bruins in states east of the Missouri River are black bears, the smallest of the clan. A mature black bear, weighing 350 to 500 pounds, on its haunches might stretch seven feet skyward — and that’s a far cry from a dozen feet.

Why even the biggest of bruins, the polar bear of the Far North, doesn’t get that big. At best it’s eight to 10 feet and might weigh in at up to half a ton tops, but it’s all white, which the latest county Bigfoot wasn’t.

Then there’s the matter of the tracks. They were said to be 15 to 20 inches, which even a polar bear would find difficult to fill with its hind tootsies, which go 13 to 14 inches tops. As for black bears, presuming there could be another around, the hind feet would leave tracks of seven inches, nine at most.

So we’ve got a nice mystery going here. If the creature seen was 12 feet, even 10 feet, it couldn’t have been a bear. But then again, at night things seem bigger, especially frightening creatures. Could a black bear half that size double in the imagination of three sleepy construction workers at midnight?

Perhaps, but no way could the size of the tracks double, which adds further intrigue to the whole episode. Something is screwy here. I went through my reference books, and nowhere could I find a critter on the continent that left tracks longer than 14 inches.

But let’s not dismiss the tale; it’s too fascinating, too stimulating. It puts the imagination to work. So what better to do than call Mike Frizzell of Reisterstown-based Enigma Project. I was told he was in Anne Arundel County chasing down Bigfoot.

Mike is into unusual sightings big time, and I left a message for him to call back in early morning — which he did. We had worked together before on Chessie sightings, so we tried putting the pieces together about Bigfoot, Big Bear or whatever. And here’s what it boils down to:

Clues Aplenty

Three construction workers are sleeping in a van at their construction site. They awake to see a big, black upright creature dashing by them so fast they can’t distinguish what it is.

They call police, who dispatch an off-duty officer working security at the mall site. Then the construction workers seek haven in a nearby fast food restaurant. Hey, the creature was twice the height of their van!

When the cop arrives, they reluctantly return to the scene where, naturally, the creature was long gone, leaving behind that humongous footprint. The four of them scout farther, and near a pond on the site they catch a glimpse of what appears to be the creature.

Understandably, the workers take off, but the policeman stays. He says he saw a pair of animal-like eyes in the dark, but he can’t make out anything else that would help identify the creature.

He stays around longer, periodically shining his light on the pond, and at about 3am spots an animal lying down on a hill near the pond. But he can’t be sure it’s the same creature. He blows an air horn several times, but the animal doesn’t seem bothered by all the commotion.

Now the officer is fed up with the media frenzy and has shut his mouth.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division was called. Their suggestion is that Bigfoot could be a bear. But what bear would stick around when spotted with a light accompanied by an air horn? Don’t you love it? It’s bizarre.


Checking out the track reports, Mike learns they’re on a muddy hill, and there’s evidence they could have been lengthened by the bear sliding in the slop. He talks to the two construction workers; the third has promptly quit the job.

They’re mountain folk from West Virginia, agitated that someone would think they fled a van because of a bear. They’ve seen plenty of bruins, and this one wasn’t, they insist emphatically. They are also adamant that it was 12 feet tall and covered with hair or fur.

But bear tracks have been seen. Also Mike tells me that over the years there have been dozens of Bigfoot reports within a 15-mile radius of Arundel Mills. Curiously, Anne Arundel County is among the tops for Bigfoot sightings in the country.

“I’m really baffled, there are many inconsistencies” admits Mike, whose Enigma Project probes have brought out tales of the most outlandish and unbelievable occurrences. But he’s not one to discount many of them. He believes there’s a lot out there that we don’t know about.

The latest among them is Bigfoot, Big Bear, of whatever, so Mike and his associates are again playing Sherlock Holmes, trying to come up with — if not a solution — some kind of explanation for the latest weird sighting in North County. Stay tuned.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly