CASTLETON - Do creatures long considered extinct still stalk the Earth? Tim Albright of Castleton thinks so.
Albright, an amateur cryptozoologist (a person who studies legendary animals), has been searching for Bigfoot - aka Sasquatch as the ape-like creature is known in Native American legends of the Pacific Northwest.
The 67-year-old retired security guard got interested in Bigfoot when he learned about sightings of the beast near Vanderburg Mountain (West Mountain) near Whitehall, N.Y. and in the so-called Bennington Triangle surrounding Glastonbury Mountain in southern Vermont.
"Bigfoot has a very wide range," Albright said. "There are reports of the creature in the Adirondack foothills as well as in the Taconic and Green Mountains."
There are organizations focused on Bigfoot in New England and New York - the best known being NESRA, the Northeast Sasquatch Researchers Association - but Albright prefers to work alone in the woods dressed head-to-toe in hunter camo with a camera and portable tape recorder - and plenty of DEET insect-repellent.
"Some of the research groups have good intentions, but then they go barreling into the woods with ATVs and kids in tow," Albright said. "Heck, that's a sure way of chasing away Sasquatch. These creatures are very secretive."
Albright said there was a well publicized 1976 bigfoot encounter made by Whitehall, N.Y., police officer, Brian Gosselin along Abair Road; the road is located between Fair Haven and Whitehall off County Road 11 (Washington County, N.Y.). The rural road has been the center of other sightings since Gosselin's famous encounter.
The Abair Road encounter was featured on "Unsolved Mysteries," a popular television show of the 1990s hosted by the late actor Robert Stack. Millions of viewers learned about the Whitehall creature - but was it Bigfoot or something less exotic?
Albright said Paul Bartholomew, a Whitehall researcher, proposed an ordinance to protect Bigfoot in the town of Whitehall back in 2004.
"Paul wrote the excellent book "Bigfoot: Encounters in New York and New England" which inspired me to search for the creature locally," he said.
According to Albright, NESRA researchers explored the Whitehall-Fair Haven region in search of Sasquatch as recently as 2005.
"There's sure a lot of interest in Bigfoot around here; Officer Gosselin wasn't the only well-respected member of the community to see Bigfoot up close," Albright added.
According to Albright, Bigfoot sightings have been reported here as far back as the First Nation Iroquois.
"There are legends of mysterious stone giants as well as sightings of ape-like giants all along the St. Lawrence River and on through the Great Lakes," he noted. "Even Samuel de Champlain reported seeing a Sasquatch in Canada during the 1600s."
Albright's deep woods adventuring has turned up several clues. He said he has found evidence of a giant apelike creature that freely crosses forested lands between U.S. Route 7 in Rutland County, Vt., and the eastern shore of Lake George, N.Y.
In Albright's possession, he claims, is a plaster cast of a footprint he found along the shore of Vanderburg Pond, on the west side of Vanderburg Mountain (West Mountain) near Whitehall.
"The footprint looks nearly identical to the giant prehistoric ape Gigantopithecus blackii," he said. "This hairy guy was the original King Kong of the Ice Age. Cavemen probably tangled with him."
Albright declined to show the footprint cast which he said is at his brother's house in Lancet, R.I., for safe keeping.
According to Jack Rink, associate professor of geography and earth sciences at McMaster University in Canada and hominoid expert, Gigantopithecus died out 300,000 years ago. The huge ape or hominoid measured 10 feet tall and weighed up to 1,300 pounds.
"Gigantopithecus was in the landscape with Homo erectus up until 300,000 years ago, at a time when humans were undergoing a major evolutionary change. Guangxi province in southern China, where the Gigantopithecus fossils were found, is the same region where some believe the modern human race originated," according to Rink.
But Rink, like many scientists, dismisses amateur claims such as Albright's that Gigantopithecus, aka Sasquatch, is still a living species.
Albright said his local Bigfoot is big.
"You should visit Hartwick College to see the Gigantopithecus statue on the campus," he said. "This will give you an idea of the size of Whitehall's creature." New York artist Kevin Anderson sculpted a full-size, lifelike version of the extinct hominoid in 2008.
Despite scientific skepticism regarding claims of living animals that should be extinct, Albright is not giving up his crypto crusade.
"I've talked to a few paleoanthropologists and while they don't say it out loud, I know they think I am nuts," he said. "But I know. Bigfoot is alive and well and living in the North Country."
Is this Bigfoot? Artist Kevin Anderson's life size steel and bronze sculpture of the extinct ape Gigantopithecus at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Anderson
Minor quake rumbles Vermont
By Lou Varricchio
MIDDLEBURY - A 5.0 Richter magnitude earthquake was felt in western Vermont. The minor earthquake occured at 1:41 p.m. June 23, according to the Vermont and U.S. Geological Surveys.
Vermont State Geologist Lawrence Becker said the quake's epicenter was located 12 miles below the Earth's surface of southern Ontario, Canada, close to the Ontario-New York-Quebec border.
"I felt it here in Montpelier," Becker said. "I was in my desk chair and then it started rocking."
But not everyone felt the quake.
"Sorry, I didn't feel a thing," said Marty Semo, owner of Semo Greenscape, a lawn care service based in East Middlebury. "I was mowing a lawn at the time it supposedly hit; I didn't feel a thing. I first heard about it while listening to the radio news during the Rush Limbaugh Show about an hour later."
Becker said the last official "event" in Vermont was April 20, 2002, when a quake centered near Plattsburgh, N.Y., was felt throughout the Champlain Valley.
The temblor was felt across many sections of the northeastern United States as far south as northern Pennsylvania. No reports of damage were reported in Vermont or elsewhere in the northeast.
The last large earthquake in Vermont occured April 20, 2002.
According to Becker, the 2002 earthquake was a 5.1 magnitude and was centered off the New England coast.