A Synopsis of the History, Reports, and Investigation of Claims

of Unknown Hominids in and about the State of Maryland



Michael A. Frizzell[i]

The Enigma Project, P.O. Box 462, Reisterstown, MD 21136



Sasquatch[ii] (pronounced- ‘sas-"kwäch) (derived from the Salishan language of southwestern British Columbia) : a hairy creature like a human being reported to exist in the northwestern U.S. and western Canada and said to be a primate between 6 and 15 feet (1.8 and 4.6 meters) tall -- called also Bigfoot.


Modern Era of Sasquatch


For nearly 50 years, the concept of Bigfoot[iii] has been a part of American consciousness. By virtue of newspaper reports in 1958[iv], the Pacific Northwest has historically been considered the birthplace of such strange animal activity. However, over the years, sightings of large, hairy hominids recorded throughout the United States suggest that, if these animals exist, they occupy or migrate through a widespread territory. In fact, Bigfoot reports have arisen from nearly every state in this country.

Understandably, due to the lack of substantial physical evidence (a body or body part)[v], skepticism has been leveled against this subject since it was first popularized by the media. Frustratingly, despite thorough field investigations, some of the most dramatic Bigfoot encounters often consist only of compelling anecdotal material. Additionally, in recent months, a number of accusations have been made which attempt to show that the entire Bigfoot concept was created by a clever hoaxer.[vi] With all due respect to the alleged hoaxer, he has either been a very busy fellow or hundreds of protégés have taken up his cause.

Nonetheless, in spite of the folklore status given to Bigfoot, sightings have persisted. Hundreds of gripping accounts have been recorded for many years. Close range, daylight, and even multiple witness sightings of the alleged beast continue to be reported. The argument can be made that this is impressive behavior for a non-entity that has been considered no more substantial than leprechauns or the Tooth Fairy. In defense of Bigfoot, however, I can report that my files (and those of colleagues) do not contain one sighting of fairies or leprechauns.

Though most of the scientific community rejects the notion that Bigfoot could represent real animals, there are a number of professional scientists who feel the subject has merit. Among others, Jeffrey Meldrum (Anthropology-Idaho State University), W. Henner Fahrenbach (Zoology-Oregon Regional Primate Research Center), and the late Grover Krantz  (Anthropology-University of Washington-Pullman) have all devoted serious research to the Bigfoot subject.


Early Maryland Reports That Predate the “Modern Era”


There are numerous historical references to “wildmen” and “hairy giant” encounters, in this country and others[vii], many of which occurred before the 20th century[viii]. In this writing, however, the focus will predominantly be on events in and around Maryland.

In the early 1990s, Mark Opsasnick, a tireless Fortean[ix] researcher, published the Bigfoot Digest[x]. The culmination of four years of intense research, this book is a detailed record of history for Bigfoot reports in Maryland. Opsasnick documented hundreds of alleged sightings of Bigfoot-type creatures—a number of which clearly predate the supposed 1950s inception/media awareness of Bigfoot.

            From 1900 until 1944, Opsasnick unearthed forty-two Maryland monster reports. Though most references are very brief, consider the following accounts, all of which contain some interesting features:


M.P. Edwards, a Chestertown, Maryland (Kent County) man tells of a personal experience from the early 1900s. Purportedly, as children, he and his brother began a midnight excursion to find out what had been mysteriously slaughtering their baby calves. On this particular night their incentive to find answers was “an awful moaning” sound coming from the nearby woods. Much to their fright, they discovered huge, human-like footprints--a sight that abruptly ended their investigation[xi].


A Dorchester County report from 1909 mentions the experience of farmer, Albert Evans[xii]. While surveying his farmland on a horse and buggy, Evans reportedly saw a "dark-haired, 7-foot tall man-beast standing over several dead cows (italics mine-M.A.F.).”


On August 1, 1957, Mr. and Mrs. Reverty Garner of Upper Marlboro (Prince Georges County), Maryland had an unnerving experience. As the couple pulled into the driveway of their home, they were startled to see a large “gorilla-like creature” with “red beady eyes” in their way. As he slowed his vehicle, Mr. Garner struck the beast to some extent. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, Garner backed up his car and began a retreat, purportedly with the annoyed creature in pursuit[xiii].


Some Recent Claims and Investigations


The Enigma Project (TEP) is a Maryland-based organization of technically oriented individuals who investigate and document claims of unexplained phenomena[xiv]. Since the Project began in 1978, its members have explored a variety of esoteric subjects. Since the State of Maryland has a long history of Bigfoot-type reports, the Enigma Project has investigated a number of these creature claims over the years. A brief chronology of selected reports is provided below.

Sykesville/Patapsco Park (River Road) – 1981


In 1981, while enjoying his favorite fishing spot, Mr. Lon Strickler waded into the South Branch of the Patapsco River near Sykesville[xv] and began to try his luck. As he fished, he took notice of a large, mixed-breed, stray dog walking along the opposing river bank about 50 feet away. As he watched, the dog began bark and growl at a large clump of brush near the river. As Strickler observed the dog, he was amazed to see a 7 to 8 foot tall, hair covered, human shape emerging from the brush. The dog, now highly agitated, attacked the huge creature. Mr. Strickler said the beast made an odd “ticking” sound as it struggled with the dog. Within seconds, the creature slammed the canine to the ground. The dog ran off. And as the creature turned to walk back into the woods, Strickler said he caught the strange animal’s scent and described it as heavy musk[xvi].


At this point, Mr. Strickler’s story becomes stranger still as the following excerpt reveals:


I drove to a phone in Sykesville and called the police. I was told to return to the scene and wait. It took me about 3 minutes to get back....and a [State] police cruiser was already there. I was immediately told to leave the area. I returned an hour later and noticed several state vehicles and one federal vehicle as well as police...the area was taped off. I could see people combing the area....I was told once again to leave. I tried for several days to get answers from state officials but never got an answer. I called [Baltimore TV stations] WJZ, WBAL and WMAR about the incidents and each seemed very interested. I contacted each station [several days] later and was told that they had ‘no idea’ of an incident and did not want to talk to me.”


As of this writing (Spring 2004) the specific area where Strickler had his alleged experience (a section of the Patapsco State Park) is still very heavily wooded and unpopulated.


Marriottsville, Maryland- 1998


There’s an old joke about some towns being so small that if you sneeze while driving through, you’ll miss them entirely. The Howard County berg of Marriottsville definitely portrays the role. Being little more than a railroad crossing, a few houses, a stone quarry, and a church, Marriottsville is a sleepy little place where only ordinary things have ever happened. However, on the evening of Sunday, November 22, 1998, something happened in Marriottsville that might be considered by some people to be extraordinary.

            At about 7:00 PM on the night in question, Mr. X, Mrs. X, and Mother-in-law X[xvii] (Mrs. X’s mother) were returning from a day-long outing in Washington, D.C. The three adults were proceeding north on Marriottsville Road as it bisected a heavily wooded section of the Patapsco Valley State Park. Mr. and Mrs. X were traveling in a full-size pickup truck. Mother-in-law X was following close behind them in an automobile. While the witnesses were driving along Marriottsville Rd., Mr. and Mrs. X suddenly saw a huge, hairy, bipedal animal, less than 100 feet away, step out of the woods to their right, cross the road in “five or six steps” and then disappear amongst the trees and shrubs on their left. Upon seeing the animal, Mr. X slowed his vehicle and switched on his highbeams. He and Mrs. X saw the animal very distinctly. They described it as being “huge,” about 8 feet tall, covered in dark brown or black fur, and walking on two legs. It remained in a profile position and never faced the oncoming vehicles. Mrs. X said she could see the fur moving on its body as it walked. Mother-in-law X, on seeing her son-in-law switch on his highbeams, did the same. Due to a slight bend in the road, the truck in front of her was angled in such a way that she, too, was afforded a clear look at the animal from her car. As the slowing vehicles approached the spot where the animal crossed the road, the witnesses became aware of a “tremendous skunk like odor.” Quickly becoming uneasy with the situation, the three adults sped out of the area. They reported that there was no other traffic on the road at the moment of the sighting. Mr. X stated, “I have been a hunter and outdoorsman for years, and I have never seen anything like this. We feel like we have stepped out of the twilight zone!”


Mr. X contacted the author on Tuesday, November 24, 1998 via the Enigma Project website. At about 3:00 PM the next day, several Project investigators met Mrs. X and her mother (Mother-in-law X) at the scene (Mr. X was working at the time and could not be present). We interviewed the two witnesses and thoroughly examined the area for evidence of their claims. After searching the site for several hours, we found absolutely no physical evidence to support their story. However, on the lawn of the residence closest to the alleged animal’s crossing, we did find a large scuffmark in a thick bed of pine needles. Near this mark, we also found a swatch of white and brown fur that appeared to be from a deer’s tail.

Subsequent interviews with two different local residents produced intriguing stories of nocturnal wails being heard and of a huge cave in the area. On Sunday, November 29, we returned to the scene. At that time we concealed an automatic recording device in a tree in the hope of corroborating the claims of strange, nocturnal sounds. The recording package monitored nighttime noises for more than a month but failed to capture anything other than recognizable sounds. During the succeeding months, a number of return trips to the area failed to produce support for any of the reported claims, although we were able to find the cave mentioned during one of the interviews. Despite a frustrating lack of evidence, the witnesses were totally sincere in what they reported and were adamant about avoiding publicity of any kind.

The Arundel Mills Incident (Hanover, MD, Anne Arundel Co.) – 2000

The morning edition of the Baltimore Sunpapers for Tuesday, August 1, 2000, carried the following headline: “Policeman, workers track roaming, 12-foot creature[xviii].” This sensational statement referred to an Anne Arundel County police report filed by two men working on the construction of the 400 plus acre, 250 million dollar mega-mall, Arundel Mills.

The commotion centered around bricklayers Jerry Workman and Chuck Vance who began work at the Arundel Mills construction site on advice from their union. On Sunday, July 30, 2000, just before midnight they were preparing to bed down in their van. Since they were short on cash and had not yet been paid, they obtained permission to sleep on the construction site. They parked their vehicle near the construction site’s southern perimeter. At approximately 12:30 AM (now Monday, July 31st), Jerry decided to take a quick bathroom break as their van was parked within a few yards of a ‘Spot-a-Pot.’ Upon exiting the rear doors of the van, Jerry claims to have startled a huge, fur-covered animal that was located about 50 yards away. He yelled to get Chuck’s attention. The men watched, what they described as a “12 foot tall” fur-covered animal with “glowing, red eyes,” run swiftly toward the western perimeter of the construction site. They said it ran on two legs, hunched over, with hands that hung to its knees. As it fled, they claimed, it bounded atop a 15-foot tall mound of earth, in one jump, proceeded in the direction of a flood drainage pond, and quickly vanished within the forest on the site’s western edge. Thoroughly shaken by what they had just seen, the men drove to a payphone and called 911 to report what they had observed. Anne Arundel County Police responded. An officer on the scene subsequently saw an unidentified animal and reportedly found a solitary human-shaped “footprint” 15 to 20 inches long.

At the urging of Mall officials and the police, authorities from the MD Department of Natural Resources were called upon to examine the construction site and provide an official explanation for the strange events. The DNR’s conclusion was that a black bear had wandered into the construction area and was causing all the commotion. Two of the principal witnesses found this explanation laughable[xix].

The complete report on the Arundel Mills Incident can be found at the following link:  www.research.umbc.edu/~frizzell/Reports/amrintro.html


Bass River State Forest (Burlington County, New Jersey) - 2003


            On Monday, September 29, 2003, at about 5:00 PM, an off-duty, New Jersey State Police Officer reportedly encountered a huge, hair-covered, bipedal creature while taking a solitary stroll through a section of the Bass River State Forest. This officer’s claims are most intriguing as he is a seasoned state trooper who allegedly came within 100 feet of an animal for which he had absolutely no frame of reference. Though he was thoroughly unnerved by the sight, he had ample daylight with which to observe the animal’s form and physical characteristics. The officer claims that as he returned to the parking area for his vehicle, the strange animal followed him through the woods ultimately revealing itself to other witnesses.

This investigation was a unique opportunity. In fear of professional reprisal, it is quite rare for law enforcement personnel to come forward with sightings of this nature.

A comprehensive report on the Bass River Forest Encounter can be found at the following link:  http://www.research.umbc.edu/~frizzell/BRSFreport.html


Recurrent Characteristics Found in Incident Reports


            Some common threads that repeatedly tie Maryland (and other) Bigfoot encounters together are:


1)      The anthropomorphic shape of the alleged animals

The creatures witnesses describe consistently have a human-like form.


2)      Erect stature and bipedal locomotion for prolonged periods

The creatures that witnesses report, whether standing, walking, or running, are typically described as being upright and supported by two legs.


3)      Mammalian hair cover

The alleged animals are invariably reported as being covered with dense brown, black, gray, or white hair or fur.


4)      Bigfoot footprints are typically similar to human footprints

Of the numerous castings that have been made of foot impressions at widespread Bigfoot encounter sites, most appear to be very large but five-toed and human-like in form (see Figure 1).


5)      Stereoscopic placement of the eyes

In many encounters the stereoscopic position of the animal’s eyes are obvious particularly in cases where the eyes are described as “glowing” or reflecting light in a conspicuous way.


6)      Very powerful physique

Though some reports mention smaller, thinner creatures (juveniles?), most witnesses describe animals with broad shoulders, barrel chests, and powerful musculatures.


Figure1- Casting of impressions allegedly found along C&O Canal (Western MD) in April 2001. Casting measures 14.25” in length and 6.5” wide.


Future Objectives


            My colleagues and I feel that this problem should be pursued in the hope that some future encounter event will present the evidence required for thorough scientific scrutiny. Since we are technologists, of one form or another, we feel that advances in low light level cameras, thermal imagers, remotely controlled aerial reconnaissance devices, and sensitive audio recording equipment may narrow the gap of our understanding of this mystery. Additionally, more attention should be paid to compiling case study data to determine what trends, patterns, and contrasts might exist there.



Whether Bigfoot is an unknown animal, some prehistoric leftover branch of man’s family tree, or some kind of phantasm, it represents an unexplained phenomenon. The fact remains that people are seeing something unusual and reporting it. And they are all basically reporting the same thing. Bigfoot sightings persist. They have a long history that is global in scope. They continue year after year largely without scientific acknowledgement. What might we discover if more serious scientific attention were given to this subject?


[i] -The author is research director and co-founder of The Enigma Project, a Maryland based group of technically oriented people who investigate and document claims of unexplained phenomena.

[ii] Merriam Webster Online Dictionary (  http://www.m-w.com/  )

[iii] Also known by such colloquial terms as Skunk Ape, Hairy Wildman, Okee, etc.

[iv] Green, John. Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, Hancock House: Seattle, Washington, 1978. pp. 65-67.

[v] Some forms of trace evidence have been recovered such as hair, feces, and dermal ridges in plasters casts. Analyses of these items are often inconclusive ( http://www.bfro.net/REF/THEORIES/WHF/dnatests.htm  )

[vi] Within the last year, the family of eccentric, west coast businessman, the late Ray Wallace, made announcements to the press that Mr. Wallace single-handedly created Bigfoot in the late 1950s with the clever use of giant, carved, wooden feet. Allegedly, Mr. Wallace used these carvings to create all the footprint impressions that caused the initial “Bigfoot” media attention in the Pacific North West. Additionally, the Wallace family asserts that, in later years, both Ray Wallace and his wife donned gorilla suits to make “bigfoot movies” for the purpose of perpetuating the idea of the creature’s existence.

[vii] Bayanov, Dmitri. In The Footsteps Of The Russian Snowman, Crypto-Logos: Moscow, 1996.

[viii] Green, John. Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, pp. 18-48.

[ix]  Pertaining to an individual or group who researches unexplained phenomena in the context of the philosophy of Charles Fort.

[x]  Opsasnick, Mark. The Bigfoot Digest: A Survey of Maryland Sightings, Privately published: MD, 1993.

[xi] Opsasnick. Bigfoot Digest, page 6, case number 43.

[xii] Ibid. Page 6, case number 45.

[xiii] Ibid. Page 11, case number 91.

[xiv] The Enigma Project maintains a website at: (  http://www.enigmaproject.org  )

[xv] Beginning in late May of 1973 and continuing until mid-July of the same year, a number of residents in the Carroll County town of Sykesville claim they saw huge, hairy monsters in and about the area. Police Chief, Omer Hebert found several large, human-like tracks in mud. Reportedly, Chief Hebert made a plaster casting of one of the tracks and is said to have taken the casting with him when he left office and moved out of state. A statement made by a State Police spokesman proposed that the Sykesville Monster sightings were simply hysteria generated as a result of the movie, The Legend of Boggy Creek which was playing in Baltimore theaters at the time. However, witnesses of the Sykesville Monster were not satisfied with that explanation. In 1980, seven years after the initial furor, The Enigma Project returned to Sykesville to re-interview several of the original witnesses. Their stories remained unchanged and they were still adamant that they had seen something very unusual.

[xvi] This information is from Enigma Project (TEP) correspondence with Lon Strickler.

[xvii] Names withheld at the request of the witnesses.

[xviii] Barnhardt, Laura. “Policeman, workers track roaming, 12-foot Creature.” Baltimore Sun, Aug. 1, 2000.

[xix] Both Workman and Vance explained that they were avid hunters and had seen bears in the wild on several occasions. They were emphatic that the animal they saw on the construction site was not a bear.


© 2004 M. A. Frizzell, All Rights Reserved