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Documentarian shares experiences investigating Sasquatch

August 13, 2020
Whether tall tales or animal species that have yet to be identified, there have been reports of Bigfoot sightings across the globe and many across New Hampshire. A Nashua-based documentary filmmaker had been investigating these stories and the stories of other cryptids across the world, recent sharing his experience in a presentation in Gilford.

Aleksandar Petakov presented "Granite State Bigfoot" on Thursday at the Gilford Public Library, a presentation talking about his work, documenting different stories, and sharing some elements of folklore and popular culture around Bigfoot.

Petakov is a filmmaker and photographer who has done a number of documentaries and multimedia projects on cryptozoology including a YouTube channel and weekly livestreams. He has documented stories on the Loch Ness Monster and sightings of similar creatures in the United States, the mystery of mountain lions in New England, and more.

Petakov presented the definition of Cryptozoology as the study of hidden or undiscovered animals. There are a number of cryptid stories from around the world, many of these are based in legend and folklore while many are actual animals that weren't properly identified for a long time. One example is the coelecanth, a prehistoric fish that was thought to be extinct until one was caught in a fishing net off the coast of South Africa.

"All the old maps back in the day had pictures of these horrible looking creatures," Petakov said. "Oftentimes, they were narwhals or whales or strange creatures they weren't familiar with that we now know."

Petakov will document stories of these cryptid sightings. He will go to the location of the sightings, talk to the people familiar with the area's wildlife, and even talk to those skeptical about the stories to get a more rounded perspective.

"Documentaries are a great way to preserve individual experiences, but also the folklore, regional stories," Petakov said.

He said while he wants to make these documentaries entertaining, he also wants to take the stories seriously.

Petakov said there are stories all over the United States and across the globe of large, hairy humanoid creatures throughout history. Some of these resemble Neanderthals or wild humans (like the Almasty of the Caucasus Mountains) while some are apelike (like the rock apes of Vietnam, who were reportedly seen by American soldiers during the Vietnam War).

A number of these creatures have been reported all across North America, especially by a number of Native American and First Nation tribes. The name "Sasquatch" comes from the term "sesquac" from the Salish Tribe of British Columbia that was anglicized as "Sasquatch." The term "Bigfoot" came from logging crews in Bluff Creek, Calif., in the 1950's. There were even stories of Daniel Boone, Theodore Roosevelt, and other historic figures having some kind of encounter or sighting of Bigfoot. Petakov said the Patterson-Gimlin film showing what looks like a Sasquatch in 1967 is the second most analyzed film next to the Zapruder Film that recorded Pres. Kennedy's assassination.

Petakov said there are a number of theories of what these creatures might be. They could be a species of animal (especially primate) that has yet to be identified or a line of early humans like the Neanderthal that didn't go extinct. He said there are a number of sightings that are misidentifications of other large animals (like bear or moose) or outright hoaxes.

Petakov presented a map showing where Bigfoot is most commonly seen, with most centered in the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, Florida, and northern New England. The commonality is areas of heavy forestation with heavy rainfall or moist environments. At the same time these are also the ideal conditions for gorillas.

There have been several reported Bigfoot sightings in New Hampshire throughout state history.

The state has two researchers from the Bigfoot Field Researcher Organization (BFRO) who investigate reports. When looking into a report, the investigators will talk to the people who made the sighting. Many reports are outright pranks or hoaxes. If it's deemed credible it will be further investigated, including talking to witnesses, watching the area, looking at field evidence like prints, and more.

While it might seem obvious to get a DNA test on any found hair or other materials, he said DNA testing is extremely expensive and inaccessible to a lot of researchers.

Petakov said there have been 239 total reports in New Hampshire. Many of the cases have been in the southern part of the state including Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties.

Petakov has talked to a number of people who have had sightings or know someone who did.

One story was of the "Hollis Flea Monster" in the 1970's. There had been three different sighings of a blondish creature around eight feet tall that went after trailers around a flea market in Hollis. In 1977 the Nashua Telegraph reported a story of a man from Lowell, Mass., abandoned his camper after seeing a "hairy, manlike creature that smelled of rotting fish." A researcher form Harvard investigated the case and found big footprints around that area along with a few similar reports.

Petakov spoke with a man who saw something around Bald Mountain while hiking with his girlfriend and their dog in 1979. They were mineral collecting when they came across a stacked stone structure. They investigated and saw a large, hairy creature sitting in it with its back turned. The dog started barking and the creature reacted with a guttural sound that sent the two running.

The last time he did a talk, someone told him of their grandfather who was a prison camp guard at Camp Stark for German prisoners during World War II. A number of prisoners refused to go in the woods to do their work, saying they saw gorillas out there.

Petakov showed his documentary "Shyman of the White Mountains" about a Bigfoot sighting near Lake Umbagog.

He dedicated the presentation to Michael Mitchell, a comic artist from Tilton. Petakov collaborated with Mitchell on a number of cryptozoology related projects, including the "Granite State Bigfoot" comic. Mitchell died in September of 2019.

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