Believer in Bigfoot gathers tales of local sightin|Mark North|darkdorset@hotmail.com|08/30/05 at 01:10:28|Mark_North|xx|0|86.131.100.33|NORTH WEBSTER, Indiana 28 August 2005 -- Mike Bardsley is used to  people
giving him a hard time. "You get out of the truck at Wal-Mart and people  are
like, `Are you serious?'," he said. One guy thought Bardsley was working a  
gimmick to sell shoes. Bardsley isn't selling shoes. And he is serious.

His Chevy Suburban gets noticed because it bears the address
_www.bigfoot46555.net_ (http://www.bigfoot46555.net) , a web site set up  by Bardsley that's
devoted to Bigfoot. The site includes accounts of Bigfoot  sightings/encounters
in Kosciusko County.

Bigfoot, or sasquatch, is supposedly a large, hairy, manlike creature. He  or
she or it has long been a part of pop culture lore. There have been numerous  
reports of Bigfoot sightings over the years, but skepticism persists about
the  creatures' existence and with good reason.

No one has ever killed or captured a Bigfoot, or happened upon a Bigfoot  
corpse. The proof is elusive. In conversation, Bardsley comes across as an  
intelligent fellow and not the credulous type. Bardsley is also a Bigfoot  
believer. More specifically, he calls himself a "level 3" believer, and  described the
different levels as such:

1. People who don't believe in sasquatch
2. People who aren't sure
3.  Believers
4. Believers who've seen it. Bardsley hopes one day to hit "level  4."

Bardsley started his Web site following a couple of incidents where he used  
to live, a rural area north of North Webster. Bardsley recalled an episode in  
which one of his sons and the son's friend told him they'd seen a "really big
hairy thing" they initially thought was a dog. Then came one memorable night
in  October 2003.

According to Bardsley, it was fairly bright out under a full moon, and he'd  
been hearing things outside. He dozed off around 1 a.m., only to be awakened  
later by someone "beating on the front of the trailer and yelling," he said.

Making the racket was Bardsley's son and two of his friends, all of whom  
wanted inside. Bardsley said the youths spent the rest of the night talking  
about what they'd experienced outside. Addled by his interrupted sleep, Bardsley  
had to wait to get the full story. "It's not that I didn't believe them," he  
said. "I don't think I was totally aware of what they were trying to explain
to  me." Bardsley indicated that he quizzed the kids later, and separately, and
their story stayed consistent. Bardsley's son and his friends said they
arrived  at the home and, from the porch, heard something making noises they
couldn't  discern.

Suddenly, what one of the boys thought was a stump in the yard stood up to  
its full, imposing height and ran off to the east at a high rate of speed. It  
then came back into their view, according to Bardsley. The boys claimed that  
what they saw was a big, hairy, bipedal creature about 8 feet tall with long  
arms.

Bardsley said that over the next couple of weeks, he started researching  
Bigfoot using the popular databases and discovered Kosciusko County  reports.

"I started finding random reports of Bigfoot in Indiana and I'm thinking,  
`This is crazy,'" he said. Bigfoot is commonly associated with the Pacific  
Northwest.

The more Bardsley got into his research, the more he heard tales of local  
encounters. He started wondering how many others had had similar experiences,  
and that's when he discovered the world of online forums and message boards.  
Soon he launched his own Web site. Bardsley considers himself an independent  
researcher. He noted that after he's done follow-up investigations with people  
who've given him their accounts of Bigfoot, "They're very grateful that
somebody  actually would talk to them about it. Because I think they've kind of got
this  `nobody believes me' feeling and they're dying for someone to actually
listen to  what they're saying. "That tends to tell me they're not just making
this up  fishing for a nice hoax."

Bigfoot enthusiasts bring different beliefs to the table, according to  
Bardsley. There are those who view Bigfoot as a flesh- and-blood entity, and  those
who think Bigfoot has supernatural powers. There are Bigfoot  
preservationists, and those with the goal of killing a Bigfoot and bringing it  in to prove
it exists. For the record, Bardsley's creation is a "no kill" Web  site "as it
pertains to the intentional hunting or killing of a  Bigfoot/Sasquatch."

As there are differences among Bigfoot enthusiasts, so are there different  
types of Bigfoot. There are size variances depending on region, Bardsley said,  
and the same is true with hair color. Some Bigfoots are exclusively bipedal,
and  some will drop to all fours and run. Generally, Bigfoot gets bigger the
farther  north it's sighted.

One aspect of Bigfoot stays pretty consistent. "They seem to, with a  
passion, want to avoid human contact," Bardsley said. Bardsley doesn't think the  
creatures live in Indiana, per se. Rather, he said there seems to be a spring  
and fall connection "to either migration or nomadic tendencies." Where they're  
coming from and where they're going is a mystery.

According to Bardsley's Web site, Bigfoot's comings and goings have brought  
it close by. One listing is of an April 2004 sighting that reportedly took
place  near the intersection of Kosciusko County roads 1100 North and 300 East
between  Milford and Syracuse. Another report describes a 1995 encounter in
Syracuse  along the railroad tracks by Chinese Gardens. Sometime in the '80s, a
big, hairy  manlike creature supposedly ran in front of a carload of people on
Bowser Road  near Syracuse.

Sue Castor, a telecommunications officer with Indiana Department of Natural  
Resources district headquarters in Syracuse, said her office has never
received  a report of a sasquatch. She's been with the IDNR nine years.

Steve Ross has been manager of the Tri-County Fish and Wildlife area for  the
past 15 years. He, too, has never received a Bigfoot report.

"We've had calls of various big cats of some type, be it bobcat or puma or  
something like that," Ross said. That type of sighting is entirely possible, he
added.

"As far as sasquatch goes, I haven't had any," Ross said. Bardsley said he  
is a believer because too many people have had the same experiences over a
broad  span of time. The reports span regions and come from people from all walks
of  life, he said."Just using logic, there's something going on," Bardsley
said.  "Now is it exactly what we think it is? Maybe not. Maybe it's far more  
simple."

By SCOTT WEISSER, News Assistant City Editor
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