Pinellas County, Florida

Near Palm Harbor

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Pinellas County Florida (Class A) BFRO

October 1977

We lived in a rural area of central Florida that was mostly pine forest. There were a few hundred acres on derelict citrus groves nearby as well as a cypress swamp to the north and east of the pine forest. The area we lived in was roughly 4 square miles between paved roads, but to the north, east, and west beyond the area I am describing, there were additional substantial areas of pine forest, palmetto scrub, and dense cypress swamp. Our house was situated on the crest of a hill, or at least what passes for a hill in that part of Florida. It was about 8:00 one night and I was home alone with my father. My parents were separated and my father would occasionally come to stay with me when my mother and siblings were out. During the late fall and winter months, it was our custom to shoot rabbits at night. Our house was roughly square, with small flood lights on each corner of the house that would illuminate our small yard area and the edge of the tree line out back to the north and west. We would typically wait until it was fully dark before we would go out. We would load our shotgun in the house, get our flash lights ready, and on occasion my father would wear a headlamp, or as he called it 'a one-eyed dog'. We would leave the corner flood lights of the house off until we were ready, then we would turn the lights on and quickly step out the back door. Most of the time there would be a rabbit or two, nibbling the grass at the border between our poorly kept lawn and edge of the forest. Not a difficult shot with a shotgun at just under 30 yards. On this particular night it was my father's turn to shoot. I held a large flashlight, he held a Steven's 12 gauge side by side double barrel and wore a less than powerful headlamp. As we flipped the lights on and emerged from the back door he stepped to the right and panned east towards an old ear tree at the edge of the grass. I turned west towards the northwest corner of our yard where there was a clothes line and an old bench my grandfather had made. On the edge of our yard, just 6 or 8 feet from the tree line, was a large, crouched figure. When I first saw the figure it was reasonably well lit from the flood lights on the house and from the upper edge of my flashlight beam. By my first glimpse of the creature it was already moving, springing up from a crouch to a fully erect, bi-pedal stance while simultaneously rotating away from me (turning to the creature's right). As there was motion when I first saw it, I was not able to get any meaningful look at its face. But as it turned I saw the creature with very good clarity from a distance of just under 30 yards. It was not a giant creature ' it was almost the same height as my father (who was 5'10'), perhaps an inch or two shorter than he was. Most of my view of the creature was from the back after it had turned and started moving away. The creature was clearly much stockier than a man, with very large shoulders and not very much narrowing noticeable at the waste. Its upper legs were thick and powerful looking. It was covered in fur of medium length ' not shaggy or super long, but long enough to obscure the details of most muscle tone. The fur was longer than that of a deer, yet not quite as long or as deep or dark as a bear. The fur was not especially dark and was certainly not black. The flashlight we had back then made everything look a little bit lighter, and a little bit more bluish purple than it really was, which I had previously observed many times when examining close up the rabbits that we had shot. The creature took 3 or 4 very distinct strides before its lower body became obscured from view by some undergrowth. Its shoulders and head were visible for perhaps another two or three strides and then nothing could be seen because of pine branches and the fact that the creature moved beyond the area illuminated by the flood lights on the house. I never shown my flashlight directly on it as I was stunned to the point of both immobility and speechlessness as soon as I saw it. I will never forget the distinct look of the creature from behind. It had some kind of deformity. Its head was tilted quite far down on the left side with that side of its head at an awkward angle to its shoulder. It was like the muscles or tendons in the left side of his neck had been injured and were now contracted a bit and shorter than the muscle on the right side. It was not a temporary position or part of the creature sudden movement; that awkward, left leaning head position was maintained even as the creature ran away. I do not recall any vocalizations or any specific smell. I do remember the sound of twigs snapping and leaves and pine needles crunching very loudly as the creature moved away. The sound of it moving through the forest and undergrowth was quite distinct and had a cadence that no other local creature made. The sound of the creature running stopped when the creature reached a small clearing about 70 yards into the woods (or I assume that is why the sound of its exit stopped based on its direction). My father who was with me saw nothing, although he heard the creature's exit. He was facing about 160 degrees opposed to where I was facing and the entire incident lasted perhaps only 3 or 4 seconds. My father asked me what was going on and I was absolutely (and very literally) speechless. I could not speak! I simply pointed and stood there frozen. He took me in the house and tried to get me calmed down, but it was more than 5 minutes before I could speak. I remember feeling fear, but I think my physical reaction was actually a mild form of shock. What I saw was so unbelievable, so unexpected, and so close. I suspect my physical reaction would not have been any different than if I had seen a headless horseman. After about 10 minutes I had recounted what I saw two or three times to my father, who was clearly in disbelief but quite moved by my physical reaction. At about this time we heard a loud, but distance barking, howling and baying from our closest neighbors hunting dogs which he kept in a large outdoor kennel at his home about 1 mile through the forest from our home. We would occasionally hear the dogs bark at night ' but never like this. I could see the look on my dad's face change from disbelief to some level of fear as the dogs made the most agitated sounds we had ever heard ' and that we never, ever heard again. We tried to find the phone number for our neighbor with the dogs, but we didn't know where my mom kept it. After about 20 minutes the dogs settle down a bit, although they continued to bark without the same level of agitation. After another 10 or 15 minutes my father suggested that we go investigate the area where I saw the creature enter the woods''''I thought this was a really bad idea and wanted no part of it. But my father insisted there was some explanation for what I had seen, and that I would feel better once I had things cleared up in my mind. My mind was not unclear ' I was quite certain of what I had seen, although I could not explain it and had no name for it. Eventually we went outside, this time with both of us carrying shotguns. I refused to step away from the back door, but my father slowly ventured over to the area about 30 yards away and looked at the ground and the brush line. He entered the brush line where I indicated and went perhaps 2 or 3 more steps and bent down again. I kept my shotgun pointed in his general direction but not directly at him. After just a few seconds my father came hurriedly back and said that we needed to get in the house. He was clearly shaken and my construction worker, outdoorsman, purple-heart awarded father was afraid of nothing. My father called the local Sheriff's office, but when he started to explain things he did not know what to say. He explained that I had seen something and was scared to the point of being speechless. He told the sheriff about the neighbor's dogs. But the more he spoke, and the less he said about the specifics of what happened, the more frustrated he became. He finally told the Sheriff 'never mind' I'm sure it was nothing. He did not give me any meaningful details of what he saw, but simply explains that 'something big clearly went through there in a big hurry.' Both my father and I knew the woods well and we hunted all the time, spending hundreds of hours a year in these woods. I had never seen anything like this creature before, and I never saw anything like it ever again. I never saw any large animal tracks in that part of central Florida that I could not easily identify and I never saw any scat that I could not identify.

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