Bigfoot was Everywhere in the 1970s and 80s, Including in Northern New York
The legendary Patterson-Gimlin film of Bigfoot, shot in Northern California’s Bluff Creek region, is among modern history’s most analyzed and debated films. Whether or not one believes in its authenticity, there’s no debating that the 59.5 seconds of film ignited a country’s curiosity in the legendary creature, which spread like wildfire during the 1970s through the mid-80s. Bigfoot was everywhere, from countless documentaries and docudramas to guest starring on the popular television series, The Six Million Dollar Man, as well as games and movies.
Much like other pinnacles of the paranormal, ghosts, the Loch Ness monster, and, to a lesser extent and debatably outside the paranormal scope, UFOs, various regions seem to have their own tales and encounters that have left witnesses confused, if not shaken, by what they’ve seen. Northern New York is no different, with several Bigfoot sightings joining many ghost tales that populated newspapers from a century earlier in the late 1800s.
However, the first local discussion in the Watertown Daily Times came not from a sighting in the area. In January 1975, a local Watertown man, Milton LaSalle, was interviewed for a piece in The Times regarding “a baffling ape-like creature ballyhooed as “Bigfoot,” which was in captivity and soon to be revealed to the public by its owner, Manhattan attorney Michael Miller.
A materials engineer technician for the State of New York’s Department of Transportation and a Bigfoot devotee, LaSalle told The Times, and accurately so, that the creature was “not what we normally think of as ‘Bigfoot.'” As some from that era may recall, the creature was also said to have been a “humanzee,” thought to have been a hybrid between a chimpanzee and a human due to its unique features and walking upright. Others wanted to believe it was a missing link in the evolution process.
The animal, dubbed “Oliver,” was ultimately found to have DNA that closely matched that of the central chimpanzee subspecies when genetic testing was performed in the mid-1990s, and subsequently died in 2012 at the age of about 55, having lived the last 15 years or so of his life at Primarily Primates sanctuary. Nevertheless, his existence helped to put Milton LaSalle in the public spotlight as an expert.
In 1976 and 1977, two events in the Pacific Northwest kept Bigfoot in the national news, the first being a woman, part of an expedition to find the creature near Eureka, California, who was reportedly abducted by Bigfoot. However, the local Sheriff suspected it to be a hoax. She was found unharmed the following day.
On May 18, 1977, the second event was touted as no hoax when seven people reportedly saw Bigfoot in British Columbia while riding a bus. The Times contacted the local expert–
The Bigfoot sighted Sunday in British Columbia was no hoax.
And what’s more, it was bigger than reported by eyewitnesses, according to a Watertown Man who is a Bigfoot devotee and a member of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained.
Milton LaSalle, 511 Jefferson St., is excited every time he hears a report of a Bigfoot. And Tuesday’s wire story in The Times describing a bus driver and six passengers sighting the legendary creature was more exciting than usual.
“Because it must be real. When seven people see something and describe it the same way, it certainly must be true,” LaSalle said Tuesday.
The sighting eventually was revealed to be yet another hoax when one of the so-called witnesses revealed to a radio station that he was on the bus. LaSalle later said, “I hate a hoax. It makes every other sightings questionable,” and warned experts to reserve judgment based on unsubstantiated facts.
However, Milton LaSalle did mention a couple of local sightings that dated back to 1975. The oldest was north of Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks, which supposedly had 15-20 witnesses in 1975. The other sighting took place just outside of Watertown–
One of the local sightings LaSalle mentioned in the article was “A hairy creature on Overlook Drive, Watertown, Near Rutland, Aug. 11, 1976, at 5:45 a.m., seen by two boys.
LaSalle stated the latter was “hardly true” due to there being no tracks located.
Bigfoot Seen Near Theresa?
In June 1977, a strange animal was sighted, twice in two days, by two groups of men working on a section of railroad track between Strough’s Crossing and Douglas Crossing near Theresa. The creature left behind large, human-shaped footprints but also left quite an impression on a group of youths who decided to organize a club to investigate the existence of Bigfoot.
The Watertown Daily Times once again turned to Milton LaSalle for comment. LaSalle found himself later that year on local television, WNPI’s “Cabin Country” show, discussing the hairy giant while answering questions from the station’s own David Monroe. LaSalle would also talk to some 75 students at Harold T. Wiley school, answering their questions.
Regarding the June 1977 incident, The Times reported–
It could have been a Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, according to Milton LaSalle, 511 Jefferson St., local authority on the creature.
“On the first day, June 27, two men claimed they watched a very large animal standing on the roadway for several minutes,” Mr. LaSalle reports. “But they were more than a half a mile way and could not make out any details. The animal then walked slowly into the forest.”
“When the men went down to the spot to investigate, they found large, human-shaped footprints. Five toes were clearly visible. These tracks were photographed,” he said.
The next day, the same scenario repeated itself further down the tracks with two different workmen. Footprints were found and photographed.
The following year, both the Watertown Daily Times and Milton LaSalle were mentioned in a book written by what was described as “American’s foremost authority on the subject,” John Green. Green, a graduate of the University of British Columbia School of Journalism, worked as a newspaperman for 30 years, spending more than 20 of those researching Bigfoot and collecting over 2,000 reports. His best-seller book, Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, is still in print.
‘Apelike’ Creatures Spotted Near Cape?
Local sightings continued the following year when, in September 1978, two creatures were spotted in both Clayton and Cape Vincent. The creatures, described as being “an apelike creature” and a “bear standing upright,” left their witnesses perplexed, although one admitted the possibility of a hoax.
The Times reported the two sightings were made along Route 12E, one about 10 miles southwest of Clayton and the other about a quarter mile northeast of Cape Vincent–
Clayton Patrolman William T. Faust said that he was “flagged down” late Friday night while patrolling the village by a man from Tonawanda, who reported spotting “an apelike creature” on Route 12E.
Patrolman Faust said the creature was described as being about 4 feet 6 inches tall, with long arms and light brown in color.
The creature reportedly crossed the road just ahead of the Tonawanda motorist who immediately turned around to get his headlights on the creature.
By that time, however, it was gone, although motorists in three other cars following the man also saw the creature and stopped.
Shortly before midnight, the second sighting was made by Mr. and Mrs. Manly Johnson of St. Lawrence Corners, Cape Vincent, and Mr. and Mrs. John Cymalo, Cape Vincent. Mr. Johnson said he almost ran into the thing, “I thought at first it was (a) bear standing upright. It just started onto the macadam and then turned around and ran back into the field,” he told The Times.
The animal was about 5 feet six inches tall with “a body about like a bear standing upright with tremendous shoulders,” he said, adding “It had hair around the face. It looked like it had white streaks of hair in the face part. If it was an animal it probably would have weighed about 400 pounds.”
Philly Report: Big Foot Here?
After four years of no sightings, Dave Shampine of The Times reported that two women and four teenagers saw an upright furry creature, in the woods and on the road, in the Town of Philadelphia along Simonet Road. The witnesses stated the creature initially sounded like a bear but then “cried like a baby” when hit by a rock but “seemed shy and curious.”
Once again, Milton LaSalle, “local Bigfoot aficionado,” was contacted for his thoughts–
He said the sighting is not the first reported in the region, but added there have bene none since about 1977 in the LaFargeville-Theresa sector. Reports of other local sightings have come from the Champion, Saranac Lake , and Harrisville sections, he said.
One of the women described the creature as having “creamy white or dirty white fur, about six feet tall, and a dog-like face with a large nose and ‘very ugly eyes,'” and it appeared to be following them. The woman disagreed when asked if she thought it might be a prank, stating, “I don’t believe it.”
1983 Dexter Sighting
After another brief absence, Bigfoot was spotted in the village of Dexter at about 1:40 p.m., August 3, in a cove behind the hardware store. A witness who called the Jefferson County Sheriff’s department described the creature as about seven feet tall, covered with curly black and brown hair, and growled. The Sheriff’s office relayed the information to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), but a DEC spokesman said they were unaware of the sighting.
From then on, the only sightings of Bigfoot reported in the news for decades were the Monster Truck or the Pizza Hut Bigfoot pizza promotions during the 1990s. Just as with the ghost sightings/haunted houses a century earlier, the newspapers went cold on the subject due to a fad or a lack of sightings.
Most recently, WPBS broadcasted a segment on the Lyons Falls “Black River Monster” and Bigfoot sightings in the North Country, viewable below from their YouTube channel.