New York Times, September 1976…
ON a clear spring morning last year in the woods a dozen miles north of Newton in Sussex County, two men were examining a swamp made by a beaver dam when growls shattered the quiet. Across the swamp water, 150 feet away, two dogs were fighting with something that was partly submerged.
“It seemed like the dogs were trying to push the thing under,” Irving Raser, one Of the men, recounted some months later. “I couldn’t tell whether it was an animal, but it wasn’t a deer because it had dark hair. It was big, but it wasn’t a bear, either. I could see that.”
The men shouted and the dogs backed off, giving the creature time to work its way to dry land, where it stood up on two legs. It was then that Mr. Raser, a Layton resident, and his companion, Charles Ames of Flatbrookville, got a good look at the animal, and they were astonished by what they saw.
“It was about six feet tall.” Mr. Raser said. “It weighed 250 to 300 pounds, and it was covered with long, brown heir. It had a flat face with deep‐set eyes, and the palms of its hands were hairless; if I didn’t know better, I’d have said it was a man dressed up in e monkey suit.”
The animal screamed at the dogs, making a fierce sound that Mr. Raser had never heard before, even though he has hunted nearly every game animal in the eastern woods. It whacked its hand loudly against small maple tree to keep. the dogs at bay, and it continued to roar, all the time keeping an eye on the two men.
After a half‐hour or more, the men jumped into their pickup truck and hurried to the nearby Hainesville barracks of the state police. They returned shortly, accompanied by two state troopers armed with shotguns. Neither the dogs nor the animal were in sight. The spot where the animal had stood was inaccessible because of surrounding deep water; close by, the troopers found the carcass of a deer.
Later, Mr. Raser said that the deer was definitely not what they had seen. It was obvious it could not have been, he said, because the deer was not freshkilled. Mr. Raser knows something about wild animals; he is a state deputy game warden and has been a Division of Fish and Game worker for 21 years.
Since, at that time, there had been several similar reports of large, hairy animals in the Sussex County woods, the local newspaper picked up the State Troopers’ account and published a brief item, with the conclusions of the troopers foremost. Despite Mr. Raser’s background, and the fact that Mr. Ames told a corroborating story, the report quickly began to melt into oblivion.
But before the account was completely forgotten, it caught the attention of Robert E. Jones, a Byram Township resident, whose hobby is the investigation of unexplained phenomena.
The report reached Mr. Jones, who lives a few miles south of Newton, at the same time that he was beginning to gather information on a series of similar encounters with an unknown animal in the northwest New Jersey woodland: He interviewed Mr. Raser and included the deputy game warden’s testimony in a rapidly growing collection of stories that bore striking similarities.
During the Raser interview, Mr. Jones played a tape recording of the alleged cry of a California Bigfoot, the legendary animal from western North America that is said be either a giant ape or a subhominid left over from the Stone Age. Mr. Raser said the sound was exactly like the scream he had heard that morning in the swamp. He had never heard of the Bigfoot before.
In the last year or so, Mr. Jones has filed away more than 50 reports of experiences with large, apelike creatures in the woods and swamps and on the roads and fields of Sussex and Warren. Counties. It is his opinion — although he leaves room for enough pessimism to stimulate objectivity—that what is being seen is a Bigfoot, commonly called a Sasquatch by the northwestern Indians, and sometimes known as the yeti or abominable snowman in other places.
Reports of encounters with this creature are common in California and in the Pacific Northwest, as well as in many wild and sparsely populated areas of the world. In the last few years, sightings have been reported in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, but none have been as close to metropolitan New York as the several score sightings reported to have taken place in this part of New Jersey.
Mr. Jones, formerly a biology and mathematics teacher and an engineer on the lunar module, is a computer analyst for a large computer concern. at eastern states and Canada who are in pursuit of unexplained phenomena He is a founder of Vestigia, a newly formed group of 50 persons from severin general and of Bigfoot in particular.
Sitting on a pillow on the floor of a small room that he has outfitted with a desk, some file cabinets and a collection of guns he no longer uses (he gave up hunting some years ago), Mr. Jones told a visitor to his comfortable home of his efforts in the last year to set up an organized investigation into the alleged Bigfoot sightings in New Jersey.
“One thing in particular we try hard to do is to keep our witnesses anonymous whenever possible,” said the slender, bearded amateur scientist, who is a member of Mensa, the society of intellectuals. “I’ve seen too many people become the laughing stock of their communities after they report a Bigfoot sighting to the police or to the newspapers.”
There are other reasons for maintaining a low profile on a Bigfoot hunt, Mr. Jones said. One is that Bigfoot reports invariably attract adventureseekers and young children, many of whom tramp all over the sighting area, sometimes through private property, occasionally infuriating local residents and the police. That kind of thing makes serious investigation all the harder, Mr. Jones noted.
Instead, he relies on the eyes and ears of scores of persons—officials and ordinary citizens as well—to send him bits of information on possible sightings or tracks. Most of his sources prefer to remain anonymous.
“They are sober, reliable people for the most part,” Mr. Jones asserted. “The last thing they want is publicity, but they know what they saw and they are usually eager to talk about it to someone who won’t laugh at them.”
Typical of the complications that can arise from much‐publicized sightings was the disappearance last year of three young boys who became lost in the winter forest while on a search for Bigfoot. They were found unhurt, but that is the kind of problem Mr. Jones is trying to avoid.
Mr. Jones began his investigation of the New Jersey Bigfoot early in 1975, when a report reached him that three people had, sighted a strange animal fitting the beast’s description; at the time, he was about to undertake study of the Jersey Devil, the fabled celebrity who has haunted the Pine Barrens for centuries. Mr. Jones already had been to western Pennsylvania to investigate reports of Bigfoot there.
To meet the witnesses of the first alleged sighting lest year, he went to a neighborhood restaurant, where one of the witnesses told him that a minister who lived nearby had additional information.
The clergyman game to the restaurant and told Mr. Jones the story of two young boys who had come running home one day and told their parents that they had seen a “cave man” watching them from the rocks above where they were playing.
The parents shrugged off the story until several weeks later, when reports about a cave man/ape man began to appear in the newspapers. Then they told the minister about it. Mr. Jones later interviewed the boys separately, and their stories matched. He was convinced that something was happening that ought to be investigated.
So began the snowball‐like growth of the reports that Mr. Jones has collected in the last year. More than 35 of the 50 or more alleged encounters have taken place within the last 18 months or so; the earliest account dates to 1917.
Included in Mr. Jones’s list of witnesses are police officers, forest rangers and private citizens. Be said they were the kind of people who had more to lose than to gain by being associated with these kinds of reports.
Last year, a state forest ranger was walking up a lonely Sussex County path in total darkness when he heard a rustling in the bushes that made him turn. He stared directly into two red eyes level with his own—they were just a few feet away—and he quickly ran back down the path.
The next day, the ranger returned to the spot and was shocked to conclude that the animal must have been standing much lower than the level of the trail; since its eyes had been even with his own, it had to be between seven and eight feet tall, not an uncommon height for the Bigfoot as described by those who say they have seen it.
The majority of New Jersey sightings have been made by people who say they have seen the animal crossing road or a field. Residents of neighborhoods near large swamps say they often hear screaming at night that sounds much like the cry on Mr. Jones’s tape. It is a haunting, wailing cry that sounds something like a yodel, but plaintive.
To finance his work, Mr. Jones lectures on mysterious phenomen to college and high school students, social groups and community organizations. Invariably, the subject turns to the New Jersey Bigfoot stories.
As for Vestigia, the group that Mr. Jones helped to establish, its investigation of the New Jersey Bigfoot goes on the year round. Whenever two or more members of the organization have the time, they spend a day, a night or a weekend in the Sussex County Hills, searching for Bigfoot clues. During the night, one member of the team is awake at all times with a taperecorder running constantly.
When asked why, after all these years of Bigfoot reports, none has ever been captured or killed, Mr. Jones replied: “The animal’s greatest ally is the fact that established science refuses to believe it exists.”
Although Bigfoot’s elusiveness has kept it in the realm of fantasy so far as science is concerned, it should be the subject of a well‐organized and financed scientific investigation, Mr. Jones contends.
“Big scientific organizations and foundations won’t investigate the Bigfoot until they have more concrete facts,” he said. “Of course, it’s very difficult for a small group like Vestigia, as underfinanced as we are, to come up with those kinds of facts; the large foundations will have a hard time getting the evidence they need to justify their participation until they themselves start to investigate in the first place.”
Mr. Jones carries on the hunt partly because he loves the search itself. But there’s another reason.
“What if Bigfoot actually is a primate that is manlike to some degree?” he asked. “If it is, then it becomes the most important animal discovery in the history of man.” ■