Bass River State Forest Claim

-A Preliminary Enigma Project Report-

-Part 2-


Michael A. Frizzell

For the Record…

            As covered in Part 1 of this report, we deduced from the information in Officer X’s initial email that his encounter occurred at the PG-2 area (denoted by WPT001 in Figure 1). Now that we have met Officer X, heard his story and have seen the exact area, we must clarify that the PG-1 site (WPT003 & 004) near Lake Absegami (about 0.3 miles south of PG-2) is the actual location (see Figure 2). Even though our logical choice was wrong, we did mention in Part 1 of this report that the PG-1 site matched several of the key criteria cited in his email.

Figure 1-GPS data (WPT001 shows PG-2, WPTs 3 & 4 shows PG-1—an alleged encounter site)

Figure 2- The Lake Absegami Recreational Area (encounter sites in woods off right of frame)

Meeting Officer X

            Through recent email correspondence, Officer X agreed to meet with us at the Bass River State Forest on Sunday, October 19, 2003 at around 3:00 PM. In his email, he advised me that his work schedule might make an exact meeting time uncertain. As a precaution, in my reply I included my cell phone number and asked him to call if his plans to join us went awry.

On Sunday, October 19th, Tim Arcilesi and I arrived at Bass River Forest at 1:45 PM and reported to the rangers’ office. We obtained permission to enter the closed northern campground and proceeded to the PG-2 site to examine the area--now, a week after our first visit. We scouted the forest for nearly an hour without finding anything pertinent to the officer’s claim (However, for those naturalists among you, while searching a boggy section of forest near the east branch of the Bass River, we did find some specimens of the rare, insect-eating Pitcher Plant –see Figure 3).

Figure 3- The rare, insectivorous Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea).

At 2:45 PM my cell phone rang. The display showed no number only the message “Caller ID blocked.” Expecting that this caller was our prime witness, I answered and the caller only identified himself as “the policeman who had the sighting.” He explained that he had been detained by work and was many miles away but that he would meet us at Bass River Forest no later than 4:00 PM.

At 3:45 PM his vehicle pulled into the PG-2 parking lot (WPT001). He quickly exited the vehicle and asked if one of us was Mike Frizzell. I identified myself. Officer X was still in uniform[1]. Looking very tired, he asked us to follow him to the area where the sighting occurred. Needless to say, we were surprised by his request. We thought we were in the correct area. We followed him, driving south on the camp road, and minutes later turned into the Lake Absegami parking area (PG-1 shown as WPT003 & 4).

As one might expect, Officer X was a bit tense and very cautious when we first met. Tim and I shook hands with him and we introduced ourselves. He only identified himself by his first name. Through the course of our conversation, we managed to put him at ease. Once this was done, his personal demeanor became engaging. The training of his profession was obvious. As he described the specifics of the experience, it was apparent that he is very observant, even-tempered, and disciplined. In his discussion with us, he mentioned that he does not drink or use any illicit drugs. The conservative nature of his profession and its responsibilities demand that he keep a low profile and remain anonymous. For that reason, I cannot detail his background, personal information (i.e. age, years of service, marital status, etc) or anything else that might compromise his position. I can only impress upon the reader that he is a man of distinction.

Being a police officer, he often sees the worst side of humanity. As a consequence of this exposure, he has tended to view life in pragmatic black and white terms. Any gray areas outside the boundaries of day-to-day living were seldom seriously considered. Some of his views have now changed forever. His strange experience in the Bass River Forest has caused him to look at certain things differently. In particular, the subject of Bigfoot, which he had always considered to be nonsense, is now given a much higher level of respect.

A Detailed Review of His Story

            When Tim and I asked Officer X to describe his encounter we were impressed by his delivery. Not only was his recall of the experience clear and commanding, it was obvious that he was recounting a very emotional event. Several times during his explanation he had to excuse himself as his voice faltered and his eyes welled with tears.

            On Monday, September 29, 2003, at about 5:00 PM, Officer X pulled into the Bass River State Forest’s Lake Absegami recreational area. He parked his vehicle on the northeast end of the lot facing the lake (the area appeared to be deserted as he does not recall any other vehicles around when he arrived)[2]. He had visited the park many times before. On this day he decided to take a walk and just enjoy a nice fall afternoon. As he walked, the parking area behind him had now disappeared around a bend in the road. He continued northeast along the main park road and gradually became lost in thought, reflecting on friends and times past. His meditation was soon disturbed when he heard the sound of branches cracking in the woods and odd cries that reminded him of “owl calls.” Within seconds of hearing these sounds, Officer X became aware of a disagreeable odor that focused his attention. He could not pinpoint the source of the stench, but described it as a combination of rotten eggs and decaying flesh (the latter, he explained, was something that alerts any seasoned policeman’s senses). Unnerved by the odor, and the feeling of being watched, he began to hear the sound of someone or something walking in the woods nearby. Slowing his pace, he finally stopped to listen. Glancing to his left, he saw a large, dark shape leaning against a tree in the woods about 60 feet northwest of his position[3]. Since the sun had not set and daylight was plentiful, he studied the shape and began to resolve detail. The object was about 8 feet tall, had an upright form and stood motionless. As his mind tried to categorize what he was seeing, his first impression was that it was a large person or a bear. Almost instinctively, he called out to the imposing object, “Who are you? Can I help you?” As he did this, he stepped off the asphalt road and onto the gravel shoulder in the direction of the huge form. The gravel crunched under his shoes and, with that, the dark shape moved its left arm and made a low grunting or bellowing sound (he likened this to the sounds that horses sometimes make).

            With this movement, Officer X could see a large hand with fingers and a thumb at the end of the shape’s arm. He quickly realized that he was not looking at a person, a bear, or any other animal that he had ever seen before[4]. The object was entirely covered with dense, dark brown hair that was about 3-inches long. The hair appeared to be very clean and neat as opposed to matted and dirty. Its arms and legs were huge and powerfully built. It had a massive chest and wide, muscular shoulders. No mammary glands or genitals were observed. The creature’s head appeared to sit atop its shoulders with no discernable neck. The shape of its head, like that of a gorilla, was somewhat tapered or conical. No ears were visible and facial features were largely indistinct—accept for the eyes. In relating his experience to us Officer X declared, “I will never forget those eyes.” He described them as having an eerie, greenish-red sheen, a quality, he said, that was somewhat similar to a deer’s eyes reflecting car headlights.

            Officer X knew he was looking at huge animal for which he had no label and just as intently, it was studying him. While the creature’s stare impressed him as being serious, he also felt it conveyed some sense that it was “curious.”  The anxiety the officer felt rapidly changed to intense fear. He turned on the road, now facing the direction from which he came, and began walking rapidly back toward the parking lot. As he quickened his pace, he frequently looked into the woods to check the creature’s position. Unmistakably, it was pacing him. It remained in the woods, parallel to his place at the road. Every time he would look at the creature, he would see the unbroken stare of those penetrating eyes.

He noticed, as the creature walked through the woods, that it would alternately swing its long, massive arms. In doing this, he said it appeared as though the animal’s hands would rotate to a “palms out” position (with thumbs pointing down) as its arms moved toward the rear in their arc. He felt that this may have aided its ability to deflect tree limbs and scrub as it cut its path through the forest.

            With his fearing mounting, Officer X moved still faster in an effort to reach the safety of his vehicle. As he arrived at the parking lot, he noticed a woman and a small child standing near a car parked in the spaces behind his, facing the road. They were about 20 feet southwest of his position. The woman was nervously fumbling with her keys trying to unlock the car and the child next to her was crying. Concerned over the child’s upset, the officer was momentarily distracted from his fear. As the woman noticed the officer standing nearby, she excitedly warned him, “There’s a bear over there!” She motioned to a swing set about 70 feet away just west of the officer’s position. Looking through the tree branches to his right, Officer X could see a dark form moving slightly near the upright frame of the swing[5]. Though tree branches in his view prevented him from seeing the object clearly, he estimated that it was about 5 feet tall and appeared to be dark brown or black in color. No sooner had he trained his sight on the small object, he heard the woman cry out, “Oh my God!” Following the direction of her gaze, to his right, he could see the huge creature in the woods about 30 feet away. The creature stood within the forest scrub, to the right of the officer’s vehicle, on the far side of a split-rail fence that separates the forest from the parking area. He immediately told the woman to get in her car. She and the child complied and they sped away.[6] As Officer X looked back to the swing set, the smaller creature was gone. Looking to his right, he could see the large beast quickly receding into the forest. At one point, as it rapidly moved away, he noticed the creature turning to look back at him. As it did so, rather than simply turning its head, he said it rotated its entire upper body. At this juncture, Officer X got into his vehicle and hastily left the area.

            On the following day (Tuesday, September 30th), at about the same time, Officer X returned to the Bass River Forest. Without leaving his vehicle, he drove through the areas of the previous day’s experience. He reported that he did not see or smell anything unusual. He did, however, hear several of the “owl calls” that preceded his encounter.

An Analysis of the Scene--Some Specifics

Date & time of alleged encounter: Monday, September 29, 2003; ~5:00 PM

Location: New Jersey, Burlington County; Bass River State Forest, Lake Absegami Recreational Area.

Elevation (average): 27.5 feet above sea level

Weather (5 PM Atlantic City data): Temp. 66 ºF; Precipitation 0.00”; Clear skies.

During our trip to the Bass River Forest on Sunday, October 19, 2003, we had a limited amount of time to both interview Officer X and analyze the site of his alleged encounter. Unfortunately, the park closes to non-campers at sundown (about 6 PM at this time of year) and we were not able to begin our interview and scrutiny of the correct scene until 3:45 PM on that day. Regardless of any constraints, we offer the data that we were able to gather.

As the reader will recall, Officer X parked on the northeast end of the Lake Absegami recreational area (see Figure 4) and proceeded to walk along the park road heading in a the same general direction[7]. When he finally stopped and saw the dark form at the tree, he had walked a distance of about 0.2 miles from his vehicle. As viewed from the road, the tree in question (a pine) is seen in the frame center of Figure 5. Since the witness described the creature as being in contact with the tree, it obviously became a potential source for evidence. The pine tree was examined for traces of hair, blood, feces, and damage.

Figure 4- Swings. Parking lot seen through trees in background. N.E. direction trends left.

Figure 5- Officer X’s view from Road. Creature was said to be at dark tree (center frame).

            We found no organic residues at the tree which would support Officer X’s sighting. However, a small area of the tree’s surface bark had been removed (in a section facing the road) about 5 feet from the ground. Some exposed inner bark revealed a series of gouges or scratches (see Figure 6). While we did not notice this specific damage on neighboring trees, we speculate that possible causes for it might include deer antler scraping or insects--as opposed to the fidgeting fingernails of some huge, hairy biped[8].

Figure 6- Close up view of bark damage

            Using his park road vantage point[9], we worked with Officer X to establish some reference for how tall he perceived the creature to be with respect to the tree. We established through a physical measurement that the officer was standing exactly 69 feet from the tree in question. From his recollection of the beast’s stature as compared to other tree limbs in view, and while he was standing at the road’s edge, we took a measurement of 8 feet 9 inches. Officer X felt confident that this value was representative of the creature’s apparent height (see Figure 7).

            Our primary witness contends that once he started heading back toward his vehicle, the beast paced him, following him to the parking lot while keeping a separate but parallel course through the woods. Tim and I attempted to project such a course, from the tree, through the forest to the parking area. A view in this general direction can be seen in Figure 8. Tim Arcilesi, Officer X, and I walked through the woods toward the lot

Figure 7- Tim Arcilesi measures estimated height. Black polygon added for comparison.

Figure 8- Through-woods view from tree toward parking area.

searching the surroundings for prints or other evidence that might relate to the experience. The first tenth mile southwest from the tree revealed nothing. The ground in that region is hard-packed and won’t take impressions easily. However, within the last tenth mile of the route, the forest floor became very boggy in an area just prior to the parking lot and swing set (this section can be seen in Figure 1 where the Lake’s waters jut in toward waypoints 003 & 004). We held high hopes for tracks in this section because the soil is extremely impressionable and yields easily to bodyweight. While scouting this area we saw several disturbances and impressions in the soft soil. However, due to the passage of time since the encounter date (nearly 3 weeks), the impressions had become amorphous, lacked definition, and were of no value (we also discovered, that should we explore this area again, we will need waterproof footwear).

            When Officer X got back to the parking lot[10], the lady with the crying child warned him of a “bear” at the swings (see Figure 9). He could see the animal she was concerned about. Unfortunately, intervening tree branches prevented him from seeing specific details[11]. In its approach to the woods adjacent to the parking area, the large creature was seen in the trees closer to the road (in forest foreground off right of frame in Figure 9). Figure 9 shows a westerly view, while Figure 10 (an annotated version of Figure 4), shows an almost diametric easterly view of this area. Figures 9 & 10 should give the reader an idea of the relative positions of the small animal, large animal, and witnesses.

Figure 9- Black rectangle shows approximate position / size of smaller animal relative to swings.

Also, due to the extremely soggy ground in the area where the large creature allegedly stopped to watch the witnesses at the parking lot, a GPS waypoint was not struck at that specific location. However, according to Officer X, the beast ended up in a position very close to the front of his vehicle at the lot. In this instance, we will reuse the GPS data for waypoint 004 (vehicle coordinates) to designate the creature’s approximate position[12].

Figure 10-Apprx. positions shown. Large creature within trees closer to lot. Witnesses standing in lot.

Some Closing Thoughts

An aspect of particular importance here is that the primary witness, the officer himself, has elected to come forward with his story. Our observations through the years have shown us that law enforcement personnel tend to avoid involvement with controversial “fringe” subjects (i.e. UFOs, Bigfoot, etc). We feel that Officer X’s openness regarding his experience has been atypical and his attitude is encouraging. We must also mention that Officer X met with us after being on duty for many hours at a location quite distant from the Bass River Forest. Despite being very tired at the time of our meeting, he explained that he put forth the effort to speak with us as his experience had been greatly troubling to him. He told us he had an urgent need to find a sympathetic ear because until our meeting with him developed, he had not been able to tell anyone about the encounter out of fear that he would be considered “crazy.” Having spent several hours in his company, our impression is that Officer X is sincere and has faithfully described what he perceived.

We had been enthusiastic about exploring this claim since Rick Fisher first brought it to light. The primary witness’s allegations are intriguing for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he is a state policeman. As such, he represents a class of people generally held to a higher standard of trustworthiness. Other factors that prioritized an investigation of the claim included:

So far, investigations at the scene of the alleged encounter have not produced any hard, physical evidence. The absence of evidence is a frequent malady shared by many, seemingly solid Bigfoot reports[13]. Obviously, obtaining corroborative testimony from additional witnesses (the unknown woman and her child) would further enhance the credibility of this case. An attempt is now being made to locate them.

At the conclusion of our meeting, Officer X explained that his experience has not only created in him a curiosity for the Bigfoot subject, it has given him the determination to continue an examination of the Bass River Forest area. His objective is to find evidence that might substantiate Bigfoot sightings that have occurred in the region. He even expressed a desire to camp in the area when it is snow covered to improve the chances of possibly finding unusual tracks. Though coastal New Jersey is outside the usual territorial scope of our investigations, given the importance of Officer X’s encounter and the significance of earlier reports in that area, the Enigma Project has pledged to assist him in his efforts.


[1] He had removed his uniform jacket beforehand and replaced it with a windbreaker, presumably, to keep his name tag out of view.

[2] In Figure 1 this area denoted by WPT004

[3] In Figure 1 the officer’s road position is WPT005 and position of creature at tree is WPT006

[4] Officer X explained that during a West Virginia hunting some years ago, he was chased by an angry black bear. He insists that what he saw in the Bass River Forest was definitely NOT a bear.

[5] In Figure 1 location of swings and “bear” marked by WPT003.

[6] Officer X has no contact information on this woman or any means to determine her identity.

[7] Per GPS data his vehicle’s location was: Latitude: N39°37.554'; Longitude: W74°25.548' (WPT004)

[8] Specific location of tree (Latitude: N39°37.670'; Longitude: W74°25.359') from GPS data- WPT006

[9] Location of road view of tree (Latitude: N39°37.662'; Longitude: W74°25.354') from GPS data- WPT005

[10] Walking a brisk pace (~2.2 mph) the distance from the tree to the lot (.2 miles) can be covered in ~5 min.

[11] Small animal at swings (Latitude: N39°37.562'; Longitude: W74°25.548') from GPS data- WPT003

[12] Per GPS data his vehicle’s location was: Latitude: N39°37.554'; Longitude: W74°25.548' (WPT004)

[13] The Enigma Project’s “Marriottsville Case” (Nov. 1998) - a night time sighting in which 3 adults in two different vehicles allegedly saw a 9 foot tall hairy, malodorous, bipedal creature. All 3 witnesses claim they watched the huge beast, at close range, cross a road while fully illuminated by their vehicles’ headlights. A close examination of the area, done within days of the sighting, yielded no evidence to support the claim.

Return to Bass River State Forest Part 1

© 2003 M.A. Frizzell