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.

The point, from Quast's perspective, is cataloging the possibility of Bigfoot in Minnesota. "Through what feels to me to have been minimal effort on my part, I have somehow become the chief investigator for the state of Minnesota," he wrote. When he published The Sasquatch in Minnesota(revised edition) in 1996, Quast's files documented more than 130 Minnesota encounters. Today he puts the number at 159. And those are "just the ones that have a chance of being credible, which most of them do, really."

But despite Quast's continued efforts to make a case for Bigfoot, Minnesota resident, official state records are fairly mum on the whole topic. Quast says he once wrote to the Minnesota Historical Society to find out what, if anything, the state's archivists might have on file. He found the answer disappointing.

"The State Historical Society has some copies of this little newsletter that was put out by a couple of kids from, I think it was Edina, back in the Seventies," he complains. "It actually had almost nothing from Minnesota in it; it was a really juvenile thing. Somehow it made it into the Historical Society archives."

 

Naturally, the easiest place to find Bigfoot is on the Internet, which has offered a new way for disparate and previously isolated enthusiasts to network, trade ideas, and swap sighting reports. This is not great news to Quast, who doesn't own a computer, much less a domain name. His work is getting around, though: Quast's titles crop up in several online bibliographies of Bigfoot-related work.

One of the places Quast's work is touted is on a "Minnesota Bigfoot" Web page (www.angelfire.com/mn2/mnbf/) belonging to another Moorhead resident, Joe Heinan. Bizarrely enough, the two have never met: The 24-year-old Duluth native, who works as a counselor at the Clay County Juvenile Detention Center, learned of Quast's efforts from yet another Web site and has since become a fan. "That's a hell of a book," Heinan says of Quast's The Sasquatch in Minnesota. "It's kind of coincidental that we live in the same town. I've actually never even met the guy. I've talked to him on the phone and through e-mail."

Nor is Quast among the investigators who collaborate with Matt Moneymaker, an Orange County, California, attorney and Internet consultant who, in terms of notoriety, is turning out to be the Peter Byrne of this generation of Bigfoot chasers. In 1995 Moneymaker, a 17-year veteran of the search for Sasquatch, launched what has become one of the subculture's most popular Internet resources, the Bigfoot Field Researcher's Organization (www.bfro.net). The site lists sightings in almost every state in the union; currently just six of the reports are from Minnesota, most of them perfunctorily brief.

Moneymaker says that only about ten percent of the cases that are reported to him ever make it to the Web site. "We only post firsthand information that the investigators strongly feel is credible," he says. "We've gotten a lot more raw information from Minnesota than is posted." He also says that he has detected a conservationist bent from Minnesotans on the issue. "In Minnesota it seems that a lot of people are concerned that other people are going to go out and hurt these things," he notes.

A number of different factors can affect sightings that get reported to the BFRO, Moneymaker says. If a Bigfoot witness doesn't have access to a computer, Moneymaker and the investigators may never hear about the sighting. And even those people who do offer reports are often cautious, he says. They frequently ask for anonymity so that they won't be subjected to ridicule, or to prevent their hometowns from being overrun with Bigfoot hunters.

Although he expresses surprise at Moneymaker's claim to have five investigators here, Quast says the California man is doing good work. "I looked at what he had in Minnesota, and he has a couple of things I hadn't heard of before, but nothing really recent."

Since Quast stopped doing the newsletter, he hasn't been in close contact with other Bigfoot enthusiasts. For a while, back when he was still publishing, Quast had a partner, Bloomington native Tim Olson. Olson took over the newsletter in 1995 after Quast burned out on the endeavor. Almost a decade ago, however, Olson moved to Arcata, California, to live in an area known for Bigfoot sightings. (Arcata is located about two hours from the site where Roger Patterson shot his 1967 film.)

Today Quast is at work on a project that will necessarily take him beyond the borders of Minnesota. He hopes to publish a book analyzing purported films and photographs of the creature, Big Footage: A History of Claims for the Sasquatch on Film, by the end of the year. But the process has been slow. "Things keep coming up," says Quast. "I had everything on a disc that got damaged and then I kind of had to start over."

When the new book is eventually published, Quast doesn't expect much media attention. Today, he figures, the mainstream press has other preoccupations. "I guess they just moved on to other things," he says. "It does still get reported once in a while. It bothers me that when it does get reported now it's usually from a humorous angle, like a tongue-in-cheek sort of thing.

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