The Hairy Truth

You thought Bigfoot sightings went out with Pop Rocks and moon boots. Try telling that to Mike Quast, who is convinced the creatures are alive and well and living in Minnesota.

Confusion deepened when Hansen began touring with a different creature, which he claimed was a reproduction of the original. The first corpse had allegedly been returned to its owner following some inquiries from the FBI. (Contacted by City Pages, Hansen said he no longer cares to discuss the matter.)

Quast talked to Hansen in 1989. "A couple of the cover stories that he came up with said that it was shot in Minnesota," Quast relates. "He told me that he actually had a sighting of something up by Duluth, but he didn't really go into detail about it. He said, 'Maybe it was Bigfoot, maybe it was from outer space. I don't know what it was.' He said that was in 1963, I think. And so he used that later on when he was going around with the Iceman, he kind of expanded on that and said that he'd shot what he'd saw."

Quast's fundamental faith was unshaken. The myriad different stories Hansen spun around the ice-block creature, he concedes, are "just an embellishment. I think the original was real."

Even hoaxes aren't that detrimental to the cause of Bigfoot research, Quast figures, because they don't really change anybody's opinion on the issue. "People either believe in it or they don't, and I think it's going to take a major discovery to really convince people on a big scale," he says. "But there's a certain percentage of the population that does believe it, a more open-minded percentage."

Still, Quast is frustrated by local accounts that don't pan out as advertised. Accordingly, his book contains a chapter called "Hoaxes," which includes what he dubs "the granddaddy of all newspaper hoaxes in Minnesota." "Man-Beast Sighted, Tracked Above Hovland," the Cook County News-Herald reported on April Fools' Day in 1991. Quast initially believed the report, and wrote to a number of different people trying to get more detail. They all wrote back that he must have gotten a version of the story that had been stripped of its final paragraph, which indicated that it was an April Fools' Day story.

One of the correspondents, a wildlife manager with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), felt compelled to add his two cents on the matter. "I must admit that I feel there could well be such beasts in the western U.S.," he wrote, "but am skeptical of reports in the Midwest."

Quast is much more irritated by the most recent Minnesota Bigfoot headline. Five years ago the city of Crookston attempted to proclaim itself "the Bigfoot capital of the world." Don Holbrook, then executive director of the Crookston Economic Development Authority, told the Star Tribune that the small town wanted to drum up "alternative" tourism by opening a Bigfoot museum. To that end, Holbrook had told the Strib that the town would be doing more research into Minnesota sightings. Quast wrote to Holbrook, offering his services. When he never got a reply, it began to dawn on him that it might all be just a stunt.

"I contacted them and I said, 'I have all these files, with all these reports, and you want to open an information center. I'd like to cooperate with you,'" says Quast, disgusted. "And I never heard back from them, so I could only assume they weren't really interested into going into much depth about it." (The exhibit never came to pass, but a local beanery, RBJ's Family Restaurant, commissioned an ex-taxidermist to build and display a 9-foot, 300-pound Bigfoot statute.)

Quast's book addresses both the Minnesota Iceman and the Crookston affair, but it recounts many less-celebrated cases. For example, a Minnesota DNR official named Harvey Cole had heard enough reports in the Koochiching County bog area near the Canadian border that he started keeping a file on Bigfoot at the Northome DNR station. Cole put Quast in touch with a hunter and trapper named Ed Trimble, who then lived near Itasca State Park. Trimble had begun finding large, unexplained tracks on his property and had become something of an evangelical on the topic; he and Quast became fast allies.

"A lot of reports I was getting in the Nineties came from [Trimble]," says Quast. "He was a really good source of information. After he found those tracks, he started talking about it to everyone he met, and that's how he started getting reports from other people."

Among the stories that Trimble brought to Quast was an odd tale from August 1974, when a pig farmer near Bagley came home to find that 78 of his hogs had inexplicably huddled into a storage room and suffocated. What does this have to do with Bigfoot? "Would livestock react in such an extreme way to the approach of a Sasquatch when other animals do not have nearly as much effect on them?" Quast wrote. "It is possible."

But of course, Quast doesn't know--and for him, it's the unknown that holds such boundless allure. Many of the stories in The Sasquatch in Minnesota are presented as unresolved mysteries. Quast briefly recounts reports of a "large, white-haired Sasquatch" near the town of Windom. Quast tried to run down the source of this sighting, too. He wrote to the Windom Chamber of Commerce. "We have no information on Bigfoot sightings in the Windom area," someone there politely wrote back.

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