Bigfoot exists, and the critter stands, more than seven feet tall, in Middleboro’s city museum.
By stands we mean a little bit precariously, because he is jerry-rigged with stuffing that includes wads of newspaper coupon inserts. He also lacks one foot, which may be fortunate, because the foot he has is adorned with toenails so long they look like they could slice through a man with a single badly placed step.
Once this mighty Bigfoot was stuffed with animal organs and frozen as part of an elaborate scam, with only a bit of intestine hanging out that could be touched to prove that he was once shuffling among the living.
Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, is the name of a giant hominid-like creature thought to inhabit forests. Bigfoot believers think the creatures come in both male and female versions, although sightings of the females appear to be less publicized.
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The grail of Bigfoot enthusiasts is a 1967 film that shows a Bigfoot striding across a stream bed in Del Norte County, Calif.
But the Middlesboro Bigfoot, with the hole in his digestive track, wasn’t the proof of life of the mythical creature, not really.
The 2008 scam perpetrated by two Georgia men who claimed they had the frozen “corpse” of a Bigfoot. They contacted Bigfoot enthusiast Tom Biscardi. He and his supporters paid $50,000 for the creature. Biscardi paid the money because he has been searching for the creature for decades, and if this was really Bigfoot, $50,000 was an investment, he said.
Or so he thought.
But, as it turns out, the animal was just a 7’7” costume. It was stuffed with animal organs, sure, but none of them original to an actual Bigfoot (if there is, in fact, an actual Bigfoot, ahem). The eyes were pigs’ eyes.
Biscardi considers the scam the hoax of the century, and was bitterly disappointed when Bigfoot turned out to be a two-piece costume that looks to be made of Halloween costume-grade acrylic fur and rubber. In fact, if you poke around the neck, you can detach the headpiece.
Biscardi’s son T.J. lived in Middlesboro for 10 years, and his father often visited him. At some point, the Bigfoot costume was placed in a Middlesboro basement. It was eventually donated to the museum.
Now, the costume sits in the Bell County Historical Society Museum in Middlesboro, a town that is, at the city sign points out, home of the actor Lee Majors, best known as “The Six Million Dollar Man.” When he lived in Middlesboro, beginning at age 2, the actor was known as Harvey Lee Yeary.
Middlesboro’s museum is where museum director William Tribell, a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, is learning how to stage the donated vast critter to show off its strong points (much fur, big frame, looks appropriately primitive) and camouflage its weak ones (a missing foot, and those pigs eyes’ that left the costume a long time ago, along with the horse tongue).
A patron, concerned about that lack of a foot, brought in a pair of those plush monster slippers you can pick up at places like Old Navy. Surprisingly, they don’t quite match.
“Kentucky is a Bigfoot hotspot,” Biscardi said in a phone interview. “There’s a bigfoot alley that goes through there. Certain times of the year there’s a migrational route that goes through there.”
Biscardi, the king of Bigfoot research, remains undeterred by not having found Bigfoot so far: “We’ve got a lot more to share with the world through our movies.”
The Middlesboro museum had a banner day when it debuted its Bigfoot exhibit in July, with 100 visitors in one day. Bigfoot has brought the tiny museum, housed in a former Carnegie building, visitors from Tennessee and Virginia.
We left with a Biscardi DVD of a recent film by Searching for Bigfoot Inc., titled “Anatomy of a Bigfoot Hoax.” Guess what it’s about.