Searching for Bigfoot

sasquatchFSasquatch. Bigfoot. These are the names given to a large ape-like creature that some people believe inhabits forests, mostly in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Admittedly, I am skeptical. A lack of physical evidence gives me pause. After all, if there’s a large hairy man running around in the forests, wouldn’t someone have captured more than a few blurry photos of the guy?
But although I’m skeptical, I’m also open-minded.
I recently had the privilege of meeting Dina Palazini, one of the few Sasquatch researchers in the New England area. Palazini is one of the first people in RI to emerge with an eyewitness account of Bigfoot. She’s also a member of Bigfoot Seekers, an all-women group made up of Palazini and two colleagues – Aryes Clague and Kris Stepney. The three seekers work together to uncover evidence of the creature and, hopefully, come face to face with him again.
I was anxious to hear about Palazini’s first sighting of Bigfoot. So let’s just dive right into the juicy stuff, shall we?
“I was about 17 years old,” she starts. “Me and three of my friends went out in a convertible. We parked on the side of a road in Cumberland in the middle of nowhere. We’re laughing, the music’s loud, we’re just being teenagers. All of the sudden, I smell something really rank. I didn’t think much of it. We were near the woods. It could have been a dead animal or something.”
Palazini recounts the eerie sensation that someone was staring at her.
“I looked over to my left and I saw this thing. It was a big hairy man. He was about 8 feet tall and just staring. Observing.”
I asked if she had any idea what the creature was at the time. Did she realize she was looking at Bigfoot?
“I thought it was a monster,” her eyes widen a bit at the word. “He was 5 or 6 feet away from us. I started screaming. We were all screaming. I tried to hide under the seat of the car. I was yelling for my friend in the driver’s seat to start the car while he fumbled with the keys.”
They drove up to the main road and frantically flagged a police officer down by yelling and flashing their lights. The four of them told the officer about the monster, and then they never spoke of it again.
“I don’t see those friends anymore. We sort of just fell apart. I think it was a kind of PTSD.”
Twenty years passed before Palazini broke her silence and shared her experience with the world. Much to her delight, dozens of people came forth with their own stories, which Palazini included in her book Encounters. Since then, her life has revolved around her research. When I ask if she’ll ever stop looking, she shakes her head right away.
“Never. It’s like an addiction now. It’s all I think about.”
Palazini ventures all over New England in search of Bigfoot, or the “ninja of the forest,” as she refers to him. Her main haunts include South County, Northern RI, Massachusetts, Connecticut and various state forests.
The camouflage backpack she carries is filled to the brim with survival gear and research tools. As she rifles through the contents, I spot a hatchet, water bladder, small baseball bat, casting material for prints, a tracking journal, a fire starter … I’m beginning to feel ill-prepared in my flip-flops. “Were you expecting to come to a tea party?” she jokes. But it’s all in good fun as she offers me a pair of boots and water before we hike down a trail to take pictures.
Kris Stepney accompanies us. The two women recount their experiences and explain their research methods.
“One of us is always looking up and around, the other down. That’s always me.” Palazini crouches down and takes out a measuring tape. That’ll come in handy for sizing footprints.
Stepney takes a small baseball bat and hits a nearby tree trunk with two loud cracks. We all freeze and listen. Palazini explains that the Sasquatch is believed to communicate by wood knocking, and she’s gotten responses before. She also tells me about strange, guttural screams coming from the forest late at night. Is it actually Bigfoot, though?
“I know an owl’s scream. I know a deer’s scream. I’ve never heard this one before,” she shrugs. “I don’t know what it is.” The thought sends goosebumps up my arms. I arrived here highly unconvinced, but Palazini’s quite serious about her work. I ask if she ever has any doubts about what she saw more than 20 years ago.
“Never.” She looks at me, unflinching. “I know what I saw. If people don’t believe it, it doesn’t matter to me.”
I’m graciously invited back to go on a research expedition with the crew. I can’t help but be excited at the prospect. But what would Palazini do if she ever ran into Bigfoot again?
“Besides shit my pants?” she laughs. Yeah. That sounds about right.
You can learn more about Palazini’s research on (She’s also a paranormal investigator- what?!) Be sure to check out her two books, Encounters and Legend Meets Truth.