Greetings, dear reader, and welcome to this 27th article, under the topic section “Appalachia - Upper East TN.” My story is set in the region. Yes, it's a true story. The above citation, from Google Maps, marks the approximate location of the knoll.
The inspiration for this article came to me, on Friday the 13th, 2023, as the next section explains. The context of life was the 2023 Israel-Hamas war, which Hamas started, on 10/7/2023. It's ongoing. This man of peace prays for peace. On that Friday the 13th, the annual Heritage Days Festival started, in my hometown, Rogersville, Tennessee. Also, that evening, the Rogersville High School senior class of 1978 held its 45th reunion (counting the graduation year as our first “reunion”). The reunion was at the Davidson Farm / Country Store, beginning at 6 PM. Once again, the start time was too late, for my wife and me to attend. Finally, thoughts were on my mind, about the birthday, the next day, of our niece -- the youngest daughter of my youngest brother and his wife. She attained age 14. Interestingly, an annular solar eclipse occurred, on her birthday (source: “2023 Annular Eclipse: Where & When,” on NASA).
This is my true story. The article begins with further elaboration on its inspiration. Afterward, my story is presented in written (this article) and verb (the embedded podcast) media formats. The conclusion is up to you, dear reader.
Inspirations for this Article
My good friend, Jim, is mentioned favorably, in the first and second articles, of 10/24/2021. The subject line of Jim's 10/12/2023 email is “'Bigfoot' caught on camera in Colorado?” His email included only a link, with no comments, to the following article: “'Bigfoot' caught on camera during couple's romantic getaway in Colorado: Shannon and Stetson Parker shared videos and pictures that they claim prove Bigfoot's existence” (on Fox News, by Chris Eberhart, 10/12/2023). About halfway into the article, it states:
The pictures and videos from a moving train are the latest blurry visuals that some people claim proves Bigfoot is real.
On Friday the 13th, I read the article, saw the photographs, and watched the videos. That was the initial inspiration for this article.
Childhood inspirations for this article are at least two. The one minute Patterson film tops the list. I've watched it several times, since my childhood. It's still featured on television shows that are about Bigfoot. Online viewing, of seven frames, is available at “Patterson-Gimlin Film: Original title: Bigfoot,” 1967 (on IMDb.com).
The first two ongoing inspirations are the television shows “Finding Bigfoot” (on Animal Planet) and “Expedition Bigfoot” (on Travel Channel). Mrs. Appalachian Irishman seems to enjoy watching the shows with me. She never says, “Not another Bigfoot show!” The remote stops on those shows, whenever I catch them, while browsing through the thousands of channels, with nothing much to watch. The shows are somewhat interesting and don't bother me. The evidence presented is often sketchy.
The rather personal and ongoing inspiration, of course, is my own story. The written version is next. My spoken version follows afterward. It's a true story.
My Written Story
The First Friday
It was a Friday, in late September of 1977, the start of my senior year in high school. The location was in northeast Hawkins County, Tennessee. Bill and Randy, two friends, both my age, lived a few miles away. Those two friends, Bill's younger brother, my younger brother (closest to me in age), and I camped out overnight more times than I can count. We even camped out in winter, after it had snowed. Those were some rather memorable cold nights and mornings!
A buddy named Gary, my age, lived closer by, in the Sunset Hills subdivision. (He passed away, two years ago, at age 61.) Gary had never been overnight camping. He was interested in a young lady, Helen, who lived farther back and near the woods, in the same subdivision. Gary wanted me to take him camping, on the knob that was high above and far behind her house. Apparently, Gary wanted to prove his devotion to the young lady. I had agreed to take Gary overnight camping, on a Friday after school.
The knob was on land that Randy's family owned. Neither Randy nor Bill wanted to camp with Gary and me, but Randy's parents allowed the two of us to overnight camp, on their land.
The early evening weather was mostly cloudy and warm, as Gary and I started hiking up, north, through the woods, to reach the knob. We needed only T-shirts, but we carried light jackets. The ground was dry, since it hadn't rained in days. We hiked up to the ridgeline, which ran west to east. The narrow trail up to the ridgeline had been made, over the years, by Randy's family. We called it the main trail. We'd reached a flat and fairly open spot, on the ridgeline, where Bill, Randy, and I had camped before.
From that ridgeline location, Gary and I continued west (or left) and hiked up a short and steep distance, to reach the knob. At the knob, the mountain sloped sharply down on three sides (to the south, farther west, and north). The short, steep, and narrow trail, from the ridgeline to the knob, had been made by bears, deer, wolves, foxes, and other animals. We called it the animal trail. The Dublins, as locals called the thick and hilly woods, were behind (or northeast) of the ridgeline and knob. Hunters spotted bears, in the Dublins, at times. Bill, Randy, and I had overnight camped in the Dublins before. At night, we thought that we saw deer eyes, near our camp. The next morning, we saw bear tracks, in the damp ground, not far from our campsite.
Dusk began to fall quickly, once we'd reached the knob -- the highest point of the mountain. We started to set up camp, just south of a large tree. The ground was fairly flat there. Nearby, several large rocks protruded from the ground. A large fallen tree was about fifteen yards to the east of and below our campsite. (We'd passed that fallen tree, to reach the campsite.) I had unrolled my sleeping bag. Gary had unrolled my brother's sleeping bag, which he had borrowed. We didn't set up my tent. We put on our light jackets. I got out my cooking kit, the food, and gathered fallen branches, to start the fire. Dry leaves on the ground made good fuel also.
Not long after I'd struck the match and started the kindling, Gary and I both heard the sound. “What was that?” -- we both whispered, as we looked, in surprise, at each other. Crouching beside the slowly building fire, we remained silent, listened, and looked around. We could see trees, branches, rocks, and the fallen tree. Darkness had fallen. The moon, still mostly full, would come and go, as the clouds passed by. The moon was behind a cloud, at the time.
We heard loud, deep, gruff, and growling sounds. It was like heavy breathing, being taken between steps, when something large is walking. We could hear footsteps, in long strides, between the sounds. The steps sounded like a two-legged, not four-legged, mammal. At age 17, I had hiked and camped in the woods often enough, to know how a four-legged animal, such as a deer or a cow, sounds, when it's walking or running on dry and leafy ground. The sounds and steps were slowly approaching us, coming up the same trail that we had been on, to arrive at our campsite. We heard what we heard. We could not see what was making those sounds. The entity was still several yards below us and to our east.
The mammal, still breathing gruffly, stopped, about fifteen yards east of and below us, behind the large fallen tree. We could hear whatever it was shaking nearby tree branches or rustling leaves on the ground. The being moved a few feet to the north, which was to our left, as we faced the fallen tree. It was now behind a large rock outcropping. It remained there for a while, still breathing gruffly and shaking nearby branches or rustling leaves.
Gary asked, “What should we do?” I said, “Let's roll up the sleeping backs. I'll pack up the food.” We did. The entity was still behind the rock outcropping, making the gruff sounds, shaking tree branches, and rustling leaves. My backpack always included a small bottle of kerosene, to use to help start a fire, if needed. I had a hunting knife, in a sheath, on my belt. I had already added larger and longer tree limbs, to build up the fire.
The mammal, still making the gruff noises, moved back onto the path, near the fallen tree. We still could not see what it was. The darkness, distance, and several tree branches blocked our view. We could hear it, stepping slowly up and closer to us!
Instinctively, thinking that the being would either kill me or that I would kill it, I poured the kerosene, from the small bottle, onto the fire. That brought up the flames. I took my hunting knife, from the sheath, with my left hand. I picked up the largest burning branch, with my right hand. As the entity, which I still could not see, continued to come up and closer, I jumped forward, into the air, with knife in one hand and fiery branch in the other. I yelled at the top of my lungs! When I landed, about ten feet farther and down from where I'd jumped, I realized that I hadn't died or hit anything.
A steep and deep ravine was below and to our southeast. Gary and I heard, after I'd landed, the entity running, in long strides, on two legs, as it sounded to me, down into that ravine. We could hear tree branches snapping and leaves crunching, as it ran. The being stopped. We couldn't see it. It remained silent. It was no longer making the gruff breathing sounds or shaking anything. The forest turned completely silent.
I whispered to Gary, “Let's get out of here.” Using my flashlight to help us see the trail, Gary and I hiked, with our gear, very quietly and slowly, east and down, to the main ridgeline. I was cupping a hand over the flashlight, so that the light would not be too visible. At the main ridgeline, we turned south (to our right) and headed down, to come out of the woods. The forest was completely quiet. We could hear only our breathing and muffled footsteps, as we hiked slowly and quietly. We didn't speak to each other. The moon had been behind clouds all this time.
Gary and I reached what I call the lower camping spot. It was a small and level clearing, not too far into the woods. Bill, Randy, and I had camped there often. The trail from the ridgeline, down which we had hiked, was now behind (or north) and above us. The ravine, down into which the unknown mammal had run, from the knoll, was just west of us. We wondered if the entity was still there, silently near us. The clouds parted. The nearly full moon shined brightly. We could see better, by the moon light.
I affirm -- to the Good Lord, before Whom I will stand on judgment day, and to you, dear reader -- that Gary and I both saw, far behind and above us, on that ridgeline, where we had been, a tall and bulky figure, standing upright, on two feet. It did not move. We were relieved that it wasn't near us, in the ravine. Cold chills came upon me. We could make out what appeared to be two legs, a large torso, two arms, broad shoulders, and a head. What seemed to be two eyes appeared to glow green. It was not a tree that looked like such a figure, to our frightened imagination. Trees were visible and very distinct, around that figure. The figure was not a tree. It seemed, from that distance, to be staring at us.
Gary and I turned away and hiked south, quickly, back to where his car was parked, near Randy's house. He drove me home. He went home. Mom and Dad were surprised that I'd returned, since they'd expected me back the next morning. I told them what had happened. They were thankful that Gary and I had not been hurt. I went to bed.
The Next Few Days
I don't think that I saw Bill, Randy, or Gary, until the next week, at the high school. Gary and I didn't talk much about our experience in the woods. We did exchange what we remembered. Our memories were identical. Gary said that he'd never go camping again. We lost touch, after high school graduation, and he passed away a couple of years ago, so I don't know if he ever did or didn't.
I'd shared the experience, with Bill and Randy. Bill accepted my words. Randy made fun of it. I challenged them, especially Randy, to camp out, at the flat and fairly open spot, on the ridgeline, where we'd camped before. I did not want to return to that knoll. I've never been back to it.
Bill and Randy agreed that we could camp out that coming Friday, after school, on the ridgeline campsite. We did.
The Next Friday
That next Friday, Bill's younger brother and my younger brother (next to me in age) joined us. There were five of us. Randy brought his pistol. Chidingly, I asked him why he'd brought his pistol, if he didn't believe what I'd told him.
The temperature was still warm enough, so we didn't pitch tents. We built a fire that faced the north slope of the ridgeline. We lined up our five sleeping bags, in a row, fairly near and south of the fire. The knoll was up and to our west (or left), as we faced the fire. No one wanted the spot closest to the knoll. I took it.
The evening camping routine started. We used our cooking kits, to make supper, from the food that we had brought with us. It was some type of beef and bean stew. It was good. We ate well.
In the darkness, we talked and kidded with each other, as teenage boys do. The sky was fairly clear. The moon light was better than the Friday before. We were enjoying another overnight camping trip. Randy, at times, asked me, kiddingly, “where's the creature?”
Suddenly, amidst our conversations, all five of us heard the same loud, deep, gruff, and growling sounds, like heavy breathing, that Gary and I had heard the Friday evening before, on the knoll. The sounds came up from far below us. Whatever was making the sounds was at the bottom of the ravine, down around the steep north side of the ridgeline. We also heard the sounds of tree branches shaking and leaves rattling.
We already had a good fire going. We added more wood. I poured the kerosene, from my small bottle, onto the fire. It looked like a bonfire. We were in a clear area, so we knew that we would not start a forest fire.
The five of us remained silent, as we listened to the growling and branch shaking sounds. Eventually, the sounds stopped. I don't recall how long we had heard them. It was several minutes. We never did hear anything walking, as Gary and I had. We did not hear a howl, on either Friday evening.
We determined that it was safe enough, to spend the night on the ridgeline. Each of us, in turn, took watch, while the others slept. None of the five of us ever heard the disturbing sounds again. It was gone. Randy turned from skeptic to believer. He accepted the story, about the experience that Gary and I had, the last Friday, on the knoll.
Early the next morning, we fixed our breakfast, packed up our gear, and hiked back out, to Randy's house. Our camping group never did camp on the ridgeline again.
As the years went by, I lost contact with Randy. Bill and I keep in touch. He still asks me, at times, if I remember the experience that the five of us had, while camping on the ridgeline, that next Friday. My younger brother and I rarely talk about the experience. When we do, we both remember the same details.
My Verbal Story
Over the decades, I've shared both encounters with family and several friends. I don't seek opportunities to share it. It comes up in conversations. For a week each summer, from 1982 to 1984, I served as a counselor, at Hillbrook Christian Camp, near Knoxville, Tennessee. Occasions arose to tell my story, to several of the boys and adult counselors.
After Mrs. Appalachian Irishman and I were married, we served as counselors at Bootheel Youth Camp, near Bloomfield, Missouri. It was one week, each summer, from about 1986 to 1993. Again, as others told their campfire stories, I told my story. From year to year, boys, who had heard my story the previous year, asked me to tell it again.
I don't seek opportunities to tell my story. It bothers me to tell it. I still get cold chills, when I tell it. I've felt cold chills, while writing about it, in this article.
The verbal sharing of my story, on Appalachian Irishman - Podcasts, is “My Bigfoot Story: Yes, It's True (published 10-18-2023; episode 21).” I tell it in a more natural style, than in my written story, above. It's just over 30 minutes long.
I recorded my verbal story, in my home office. I'd wanted to hike House Mountain, to record it from the middle bluff. The weather was seasonably warm and clear, with a crisp blue sky. Molly, our ol' puppy, who is age eight, however, was favoring her left front leg. I decided to remain at home, so that I could tend to her. She seems to be better! She's back to running around as usual.
Thanks, Jim. Your 10/12/2023 email inspired this article and embedded podcast! I'll reply by email, to your email, once this is published, so you can know.
This is my true story. I call it my Bigfoot story, since I don't know what else it could have been. I've thought that it could have been a bear, but bears don't run upright, on two legs. They do stand, on two legs, at times. I've thought that it could have been a large man, who was in the woods, on both Friday evenings. The loud, deep, gruff, and growling sounds could have been a bear, but they didn't sound like any man, whom I've ever heard.
My mind is still open. Sufficient evidence appears to indicate that Bigfoot (Sasquatch, Yeti) may exist. I may have heard one, in a close encounter, and seen it, from a distance -- back in September 1977.
The conclusion is up to you, dear reader. What do you think that it was?