Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie

Posted on March 10, 2008 by

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Southern Ohio may seem a world-away from the Pacific Northwest habitat one typically pictures when they hear the word Bigfoot, but the region does have a rich history of hairy biped reports. The rugged Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio, in particular, have a number of reports from the Shawnee State Forest in Scioto and Adams Counties, and the Wayne National Forest further east. In his book “Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates” Loren Coleman recounts the story of a devil monkey seen in the Duncansville area of Adams County. (Duncansville, which is mostly Amish owned hilltop pasture land and forest, is a short drive from the famous Serpent Mound and was a destination for curiosity seekers in the mid to late 1980s because of an image of an angel or Christ supposedly burned into a church door when a young girl was cured of an illness after stepping outside during a service for some fresh air and having the entity appear to her.) The famous Ohio Howl was also recorded in eastern Appalachian Ohio, in Columbiana County where Ohio borders Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

But while reports from Ohio aren’t unheard of, as elsewhere they are seldom accepted at face value and those reporting them often face ridicule and derision. Wayne Burton and Dallas Gilbert, the subjects of Jay Delaney’s “Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie” are no exception. I first became aware of Wayne and Dallas while working as a reporter for the Portsmouth Daily Times. A colleague at the Times, Kirsten Stanley, had written a cover story on the duo prior to my starting with the Times, and the general consensus around the newsroom was that they were a nice enough couple of fellows, if maybe a little obsessive and sometimes pushy. The fact of the matter was that although they claimed to have hundreds of shots of Bigfoot creatures, none of the reporters who examined the photos ever saw anything other than blurry areas of darkness that could have been anything from tree stumps to tricks of light and shadow. When, in 2006, I learned that probable Bigfoot hoaxer Tom Biscardi was coming to Portsmouth, Ohio, I contacted my former editor at the Portsmouth Daily Times and the Scioto Voice, Debbie Allard. When I received my June 22 issue of the Scioto Voice I wasn’t too surprised to see that Burton and Gilbert had hooked up with Biscardi. The way I saw it at the time Gilbert and Burton were either as “full of it” as Biscardi, or were naively optimistic enough to be taken in by his P.T. Barnum-esque charms. From my readings of the film synopsis for “Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie” it seems the latter was the case.

“Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie”, showing tonight and Friday, March 14, at the Alamo Ritz downtown as part of Austin’s SXSW film festival uses the experiences of the two Bigfoot hunters to tell a story familiar to far too many; the story of people in formerly thriving, but now economically depressed, industrial towns looking for a way to realize their dreams and make opportunities for themselves in the face of overwhelming poverty and diversity. An uphill struggle to be sure, with a prize that often seems as elusive as America’s yet to be catalogued great ape.

“Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie” shows at 11:59 PM, at the Alamo Ritz tonight, March 10, and Friday, March 14.