The RFP Research Project
Clarke County, AL Studies Area
Field Investigation Report
DKS, CMM, RWM, TS & THB
Site: Actual location not disclosed. The site is in Clarke County, Alabama within a few miles of the City of Jackson, AL.
Initial RFP Report Reference
Introduction: This report details observations and activities of the authors and others on the large parcel of private land on which four young men encountered what they believed to be a large enigmatic bipedal animal in the late 1980’s. The period covered by the this report extends from September 30, 2004 – the date the initial encounter report was received – to August 1, 2005. The exact location of the property is not being disclosed because of continued research and surveillance of the site by the RFP Field Researchers. Coordinated research and field investigations only began in June of 2005 after permission was granted the RFP Research Project to conduct such activities by the hunters who hold the lease on the property.
Environmental Profile: The site consists of more than one thousand acres, only a small part of which has ever been cleared for cultivation. Although it is obvious the property was once a thriving farm, there has been no real farming operations for some years. Many of the old field are now planted in pine forests, with only a few small areas still kept mowed and cultivated by the hunters for the benefit of deer and turkey.
The surface soils are predominately ancient beach sands thoroughly mixed with red clay from ocean sediments. The land gently slopes from north to south except where karst outcrops near the property’s southern edges produce small steep ridges and ravines. There are reportedly small caves in some faces of the limestone cliffs, and in nearby areas there are numerous underground stream channels in the limestone that produce winding caves large enough for human passage. Less than one mile south of the limestone outcrops there is a large creek basin. The southern part of the property is subject to frequent flooding. The creek discharge into the Tombigbee River a few miles further south. The Tombigbee joins the Alabama River at the southern tip of Clarke County and the combined flow discharges into Mobile Bay via the Mobile River (or the Tensaw). The research site is approximately 60 miles north of Mobile Bay.
The karst ridges and ravines are thickly forested with large cedars, pines, hickory and upland oak. The creek basin is in places swampy in nature, and densely forested throughout with lowland oaks, gums, elm, hickory, and cypress being the more predominate types. The timber in the area, especially the large cedars and other trees on top of the limestone ridges, was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2005, and the remaining timber damaged to a much lesser degree by the winds from Hurricane Dennis which struck the area in mid-July of 2005.
The area produces many wild fruits and berries such as blackberry, huckleberry, wild cherry, elderberries, muscadine, wild plums and persimmon. Nearby there are old farms that still contain producing apple, pear and fig trees.
Based on the number of tracks seen by the research team, the property obviously hosts a sizeable population of deer, although one of the resident hunters stated that population had, for reasons unknown to him, declined in recent years. There are wild hogs in the general area, and no doubt some forage in the thick creek bottoms on the property, although no evidence of their presence was seen by the authors. The general area is prime habitat for raccoon, opossum, squirrel, rabbit, turkey, beaver and armadillo. The area is also known for its large rattlesnakes.
The creek which passes through the property is said by local residents to be well populated with bass, perch and catfish and turtles.
The area is typically warm and humid during most of the year, with occasional freezing temperatures and freezing precipitation during the late winter months.
Extent and Affect of Property Utilization: The property can be accessed by two small roads that are coated with red clay gravel taken from a bed on the property. Both roads have gates that are normally locked at the entrances to the property. The property itself has graveled roads that provide access to the central part of the higher elevations, and roads that terminate near the creek. The property is infrequently used except during the fall/winter hunting seasons. A group of hunters manage the property. The property is very well maintained, and there is little visible evidence of hunting and camping activities except for a few ground level shooting blinds and tree stands.
Research Objectives, Tools and Techniques: The area has generated numerous first-hand reports from local residents who have seen and/or heard large enigmatic animals that exhibited physical and/or vocal characteristics typically attributed to an unclassified, reclusive forest primate. The authors’ began investigations on the property to try to determine if it was inhabited by animals heretofore unclassified.
The team members are experienced hunters with tracking skills. A senior member is experienced in gathering and preserving crime scene evidence, including blood, tissue and hair samples, and maintains a field kit of sterile medical sampling vials containing reagents to fix and maintain the integrity of such biological samples for future testing. The team members have access to other sampling containers for the preservation of scat and other physical evidence that might be found.
Three of the members have sound gathering and amplification equipment that is typically connected to digital and tape sound recorders. The input to the recorders can also be monitored with earphones. Members also have cordless earphones with integral amplifiers (“hunter’s ears”). Recorded sounds from both CDs and tape are broadcast through small speakers that may be located close to, or remote from the researchers. High output (“call blasting”) speakers were not used. in this area because the volume of such systems would carry the sounds into residential areas near the northern and western borders of the property. Two of the members own and use monocular night vision scopes.
Summary of Field Investigations and Research as of August 1, 2005: On September 30, 2004 a RFP Research Project (hereinafter, the Project) Field Investigator was contacted in person and given the original report that is referenced above. Later that same day the witness accompanied the investigator to the old home site where the incident reportedly occurred. The road to the old home site was blocked by numerous large trees that had been toppled by winds from Hurricane Ivan. The two walked through the downed timber until the road turned to cross an open field that leads to the home site and beyond. It was interesting to note that although the incident occurred about 20 years ago, the witness pointed out the “goose bumps” on his arms as we came within sight of the old house in which the incident occurred. The incident was obviously a memorable event for the witness. The brief visit to the property, coupled with information gained by viewing a topographic map of the property and the surrounding area, provided ample reason to believe the combined areas would be suitable, if not ideal habitat for any reclusive animal.
In June of 2005 local members of The RFP Research Project obtained permission from the hunters holding the lease on the property for the Project’s personnel to conduct research and surveillance on the property. During the afternoon of June 25, one of the hunters and his son accompanied two of the Project’s local team members (DKS & RWM) and gave them a guided tour of the relatively small part of the property that was accessible to highway vehicles. One of the roads ran alongside the base of one of the limestone ridges and ended several hundreds from that location. The road ended inside a small “shooting field” which was within a few yards of the creek. The group stopped in the field to briefly look around, and quickly decided it was an ideal spot to use for night surveillance operations.
The Project’s members noticed there was a wooden shooting blind set on the ground under a huge oak tree that grew at the edge of the field on the side adjacent to the creek. The shooting “house” had a roof made of heavy corrugated metal which had sharp “V” shaped channels and ridges. The roof protruded about 2′ or slightly more over the front wall of the building. The large oak tree’s canopy is dense, with heavy lower limbs that pass only a few above the top of the house and extend several feet beyond the field’s edge. There is an opening across the front of the blind which provides a clear view of the field. That afternoon the four people parked their vehicles in the field a few steps away from the front of this building, and none of them, including the hunter who was guiding the group, saw nothing unusual about the condition of the shooting house. The group left in the early afternoon.
That night DKS, RWM, CMM and TS drove to the same location. They were in two vehicles, DKS and TS, in one and RWM and CMM in the other. They parked in the small field near the front of the shooting house about 9PM. They chose not to play any recorded sounds, and simply sat and listened for unusual sounds or activities. They heard unusual sounds during that period, but they were unable to determine for certain what made them. During that time they heard a rat chewing on the interior framework inside the shooting blind, and DKS walked to the house with a flashlight to try stop the rat’s noises. She noticed there was a large, forked limb leaning against the front of the blind. The base of the limb was on the ground, with the ends on the forks leaning against the metal roof overhang. She asked RWM to walk over to the house. They noted that one end of the overhang had been bent down about 45 degrees. (As stated previously, the metal roof is made of heavy gauge metal with sharp “V” ridges which makes the material very rigid.) It quickly became obvious the overhang had been beaten down by impact from the limb. The limb did not fall from the tree above the house. That tree is an oak, and there is no large pine tree within a hundred yards of the shooting house. They discussed the presence of the limb and both agreed it had not been there earlier that day when they were escorted to the site by the hunting club member. (The Project Director later called the hunter and he emphatically stated the limb had not been there at that time because he looked at the blind to check its condition while there. He also stated no high winds had since hit the area that day.) Some time was spent trying to determine without success where the limb came from, and how it got to it present location.
When they left, RWM and CMM led in the front vehicle with DKS and TS following a few hundred yards behind in DKS’s Blazer. When DKS’s vehicle slowly reached the base of the limestone ridge, the other vehicle was out of sight. Both DKS and TS had their respective windows fully open, and the limestone outcrop was on the passenger’s side. As the vehicle very slowly reached the side of a high part of the ridge, TS shouted in alarm and leaned toward the interior of the car. At that time there was the loud sound of a rock striking the underside of the vehicle. DKS immediately stopped and put the vehicle in reverse, but the passenger screamed for the driver to, “Get the h— out of here!” DKS obliged and drove away. The passenger explained that she heard the rock passing through the underbrush on its way to the car. She emphatically stated the rock had been thrown from off the side of the limestone ridge. The team members drove off the property without any further incident.
On the night of June 27 DKS, CMM, RWM, CMM and THB drove to the property. Along the side of the farm road at the southern end of the limestone ridge CMM set up his sound collecting dish and attached a digital recorder to the amplified output from the dish. The team decided that on that particular night they would only remain in the area for about two hours, so CMM set the recorder for the best quality of recording. In that mode the recorder operates for about two hours. It was about 9PM when the unit was turned on. The unit was left unattended, and the team drove to the small field in front of the shooting house. There DKS set up her sound gathering equipment about 25 yards away.
The group sat and listened for awhile, then DKS played various recorded animal sounds from a portable CD players. There were numerous responses from owls and some loud, quick hooting sounds from two areas that were similar to those made by owls, although the sound were not owl-like in pitch or volume. After two hours, the group decided to pack up to leave because some team members had appointments early the next day. Before doing so, THB asked if he could he try a modified elk call that he had used previously in other areas to receive vocal responses from the research subject animals. The group agreed, and the call was used. Immediately there was a long, deep, somewhat wavering howling sound from the creek bottoms about one quarter mile east of the team. The howl was very similar in all respects to the purported “bigfoot” recordings from Ohio, Oregon and Mississippi. The howl in no way resembled those made by wild or domestic canines, nor that which have could been made by a typical human. The howl occurred about 11:15PM.
After waiting several more minutes, the team decided to leave the area. The nearby equipment was loaded and the team drove back to pick up the other unit on our way out. While CMM was dismantling his equipment, THB asked him if he would make a single shouting sound as loud and for as long as he could. He agreed and shouted loudly. Within a few second there was a very loud, guttural shout heard from the opposite direction from where the howling sound originated. The sound heard was precisely the same as those that THB has heard at night in mountains inside the Ouachita National Forest in western Arkansas. The sound is similar to, but much deeper and louder, than that which could be made by a large man shouting “Hay” in a deep voice and prolonging the word. (It is more like “Hay” than “Hey” because of the raspy and prolonged “vowel” sound, i.e., “Haaaaaaaaay”.) After a later review of a topographic map of the area, it was determined the sound originated from a marshy area west of the creek.
After returning home, both DKS and CMM listened to the play-back from both recorders, and it was determined that both recorders had completed the “optimum quality” record cycles and shut down about 15 minutes before the first vocalization (the howling sound) was heard.
On June 30, 2005 DKS and RWM returned to the site during the day to look for tracks and to look closely at the large pine limb on the shooting house to see if any hair might be clinging to it. They did not find any hair on the limb, but they noticed since their last visit the entire metal roof overhang had been beaten down to an angle of about 90 degrees, and that another large, dead pine limb was laying on top of the main section of the roof.
On the morning of July 12, 2005 DKS, RWM, CMM and THB drove to the property to find the road just inside the gate was blocked by a large pine that had been blown down. After cutting out a section of the tree with a power saw and rolling it aside, we drove toward the shooting house. On the way THB and DKS (who were in one vehicle) saw a patch of blackberries beside the road and THB noticed there were large tracks in the grass around one side of the patch, and the patch was nearly stripped clean of ripe berries. The tracks in the grass were larger than those of a human, and there were no tire tracks or human tracks on the road. (The inaccessibility of the area, and the fact that the blackberry patch was small and isolated, would seem to rule out human harvesting of the fruit.)
We continued toward the shooting house, but as we approached it we could see that the small field and the shooting house was now an island surrounded by the flood waters produced by hurricane Dennis. THB had wanted to photograph the shooting house and limbs, but the water was so deep that he did not want to risk damaging his camera by trying to walk through it. The team drove back to the limestone ridge, and DKS and THB put on their snake boots and explored the top of the ridge. Many of the large cedar trees that once grew there had been toppled by Hurricane Ivan. The downed trees make it nearly impossible to safely travel along the peak of the ridge. Some of the cedars, and other trees, that were blown down are still alive. Some of them actually did not fall completely, making ideal shelters and cover for animals – but the members saw no evidence of animals using the trees for that purpose. (Only a relatively small part of the limestone ridges adjacent to the farm road was examined. Further study of those ridges will be done in late winter.) Although there are well worn game trails around the side of the ridge, the limestone surface and the cedar needles showed no discernable tracks of any animals except deer. The team left the area about an hour later.
Just before dark on June 14, 2004 THB was driving an unpaved, infrequently used road that runs parallel to the site, although it is about a mile or so from it. The intervening territory is a heavily forested creek bottom that is uninhabited. THB stopped in that area to answer a “call of nature”, and while standing along the edge of the road he made loud, long howling vocalizations for several seconds. It was very quite and still, and he listened for several minutes, but nothing responded to the sounds. He was on his way to meet other team members, so he started to get back in his vehicle to leave. In doing so he saw the modified elk call on the front seat console, pick it up and stepped back outside. He blew a very loud, wavering call that gradually terminated in a high pitched screaming sound. Immediately there were five consecutive howling sound from the creek bottoms. The sounds were deep, loud and mournful, each lasting about 3 to 5 seconds, with pauses between the howls of about the same duration as the call themselves. THB immediately retrieved a set of “hunter’s ears” from the truck and moved away from it to listen. (The snapping and popping of a vehicle’s engine and exhaust system as they cool can be very distracting at such times.) After waiting for about ten minutes, THB heard the loud noises of brush and limbs breaking in the area of the creek. The noises stopped for a few seconds, and then he heard the sound of a large object falling or jumping into water, Splashing sounds continued for about 10 seconds and then a few more seconds of breaking brush and limbs were heard. Afterwards there was nothing but silence. THB waited and watched the wood line along the road until darkness. At that time he retrieved a monocular night vision scope from the truck and continued watching the woods in the direction of the sounds. Eventually he used the scope’s infrared illuminator to try to detect eye shine, but none was seen. After about thirty more minutes he drove to meet the other team members.
Future Research: The local members of the Projects have since established baiting areas on the property, and have already had bait removed from one suspended container. Sealed containers of food bars and cans of beverages left at ground level have been opened and their contents removed. One beverage container which was twisted in half will be closely examined for possible physical evidence.
Hopefully the baiting will be successful in establishing a foraging pattern whereby trip-wire cameras might prove useful. Concealed night-time surveillance operations will begin if routine foraging patterns are established.