How many Bigfoot sightings have there been in and around Carter County? More than you might think! It's common enough that one Grahn woman, Tabatha Steagall, has started researching the sightings in her free time, and several dozen witnesses from Carter County – and a few from Greenup, Boyd and Elliott – showed up at her house last month for a get together to share their stories, thoughts, and pet theories on what folks might be seeing.

While it's more common than you might think, there is still some stigma attached to admitting you've seen an animal that mainstream science isn't yet ready to accept. So many of the witnesses, while eager to share their tales, aren't so eager to have their names attached to them.

Steagall, whose best sighting dates back to 1998, isn't among those bashful about going public though. It was during the heavy ice storms in February of that year that her home lost power for six days. Everything in their freezer they couldn't eat right away started to go bad, so her father bagged up the meat and placed it outside to dispose of. By this point the electricity had come back on, and the witness and her father were sitting in their living room watching television. The porch light was on, and Steagall could see outside fairly well. She just happened to glance up and out the window in time to see what she initially took as a large man sauntering off with their garbage. She was so shocked that she shouted to her father, "Some man is stealing our rotted meat!"

When Steagall looked out to give the man a second look, however, she realized that what she was seeing was not a man after all. Or, if he was, he was a very odd one. For one thing, he had no clothes on. Or at least no pants. Instead he was covered in dark colored hair. Though Steagall said the meat thief quickly made his way up the hill and disappeared into the woods with loud crashing sounds, before he got outside the range of the porch light she got a very good look at his legs. She said they were covered in dark hair, which she described as looking black in the low light. Though she wouldn't say she could see musculature, she could tell that he wasn't wearing pants or a ghilly suit. Instead the hair appeared to be attached directly to the otherwise naked legs.

The next morning her father went into the woods where they heard their garbage thief busting the brush and was able to find the abandoned garbage bag. Oddly, the bag wasn't torn or chewed open, as one would expect from an animal. Another thing they found odd was that while the meat was all gone other items, like frozen french fries and butter, were left untouched.

Steagall doesn't think this was her first sighting, though. After she began researching the Bigfoot phenomenon she believes her first sighting was several years earlier, when she was a young teenager in the early 90s. Though she doesn't recollect the exact date, she remembers going out into the back yard to throw dinner scraps over the fence to their horses. She spotted what she described as a very large man, "like the ghost of a Neanderthal" standing in the edge of the woods, about 50 feet away. She told her dad about the trespasser and he went out to investigate but found nothing. While she only had moonlight to see by, and couldn't even tell if she was looking at the back or the front of the prowler, she could see the layering of the hair on its head. But even after seeing the meat thief, it was several years before Steagall decided that first prowler might have been a Bigfoot as well.

The road she lives on is rural, even by Carter County standards – because of a bridge outage and the direction I came in from, I was forced to take a detour off of Rattlesnake Ridge that required me to drive my car through knee deep creek water at a ford to reach her home for the meetup – and she isn't the only witness from that portion of Grahn.

Once she started investigating, she found out that there are sightings dating back to the 1960s and earlier. In one hair-raising tale a young man riding a moped after dark had the bike stall on him. As he was trying to get it started he glanced at his side mirror and saw a tall creature, covered in white hair, coming up the road behind him. With this extra motivation to get moving the young man was able to get his bike to turn over and fled the area without looking back.

Another neighbor along Steagall's road reported several incidents on his farm, including waking up to find that something had flung feces all over the siding of his house, like an angry chimpanzee at the zoo might.

One unnamed witness from Elliott County said he had also had several sightings on his farm, and believed they traveled through the area regularly. Another witness from Rush reported two sightings on her property, which she believed might have been the same creature. Whatever it was that she saw left an 18 inch footprint, which the witness attempted to cast.

"It sure looked like a footprint to me," she said.

Another witness, who came forward with a sighting along Everman Creek, has since had five more sightings from the same area shared with him by his neighbors.

When someone reaches out to them and they hear about these sightings, Steagall and her friends in the Carter County Bigfoot Research group attempt to follow up and provide some explanation to the property owners. They aren't always thrilled with what they hear, however. In one case that Steagall and fellow investigator Chuck Everman recently investigated in western Carter County (exact location undisclosed to protect the privacy of the witness) the lady who contacted them had been hearing odd sounds that spooked her. When Everman and Steagall went out to investigate after her latest sighting, in March, they found a partial footprint in the mud, with toes obscured where whatever left it stepped partially onto a moss covered bank. While the witness wanted answers, she wasn't ready to accept the physical evidence that Steagall and Everman found. When they told her they had found a footprint, the witness simply turned away and walked back into her home without coming to take a look for herself. She has not been willing to discuss it with them since then.

So, if you want to have a Bigfoot encounter, Carter County might be a good place to go looking. But be careful what you wish for. You, like the witness to the March incidents, may not be so happy with what you find.

Contact the writer at jwells@journal-times.com.

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