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Beyond the Beyond: Elusive Encounters – Examining the Skunk Ape Mystery

Beyond the Beyond: Elusive Encounters – Examining the Skunk Ape Mystery

bigfoot skunk ape
Image credit: Tanner Rush

Florida is known for a lot of things: white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, bustling amusement parks, natural attractions like the Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys, sports and recreation, educational institutions, and smiling retirees sipping slippery nipples after a long day at the golf course. I feel like I’m forgetting something. Oh yeah. Brain-eating bath-salt-sniffing homeless guys, alligators, hurricanes, giant mosquitos, humidity, red tide, traffic and… Skunk Apes.  

You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?” You may also ask yourself just what the hell a Skunk Ape is. The thing about it is that nobody quite knows for sure. The earliest account comes from a local newspaper story in 1818 in what is now Apalachicola, Florida, where “man-sized monkeys” raided food stores and stalked fishermen along the shore. The Seminoles call him Esti Capcaki, which roughly translates to “tall man.” For them, the existence of such a creature is common knowledge, and their dealings with them stretch back centuries.

Skunk Apes are said to be hair-covered, towering creatures who stand six to eight feet tall, with some reports saying their height can be up to ten feet. Their face is broad and flat, with a prominent brow, wide flat nose, and deep-set eyes similar to that of a gorilla. Despite their large size, they are said to be agile and fast-moving through the dense Florida swamps and forests. Oh, and they smell.  Sightings are often accompanied by what witnesses say is a strong, foul odor that lingers in the air even after they’re gone. This is actually a trait that the Skunk Ape shares with his Northwest counterpart, Sasquatch or Bigfoot.

Modern sightings stretch back to the 1940s. In Suwannee County, east of Tallahassee, a man said one of them hitched a ride on the running board of his car before jumping off into the woods after traveling three miles. In 1973, a nine-year-old Dave Shealy (who now owns and operates the Skunk Ape Research Center in Ochopee, FL), said he saw one while deer hunting with his dad.It was walking across the swamp and my brother spotted it first,” Shealy said, “but I couldn’t see it over the grass. I wasn’t tall enough. My brother picked me up, and I saw it, about a hundred yards away. It looked like a man, but completely covered with hair.”

In 1975, another man from Polk County reported seeing a Skunk Ape carrying an armload of corn.  This was one of three sightings from Polk County that year. In 2000 in Lettuce Lake Park, several witnesses claimed to see large, apelike creatures walking upright in the nearby woods. The list goes on and on.

Not much photographic evidence exists. The ones that are out there, to be honest, I won’t include here because they really are that bad. However, one piece of photographic evidence has always intrigued me, and that is a series of photos from 2000 dubbed The Myakka Skunk Ape Photos.

It started when a letter that was mailed to the Sarasota County, FL police department. The letter was dated December 29th, but wasn’t opened until a few days after receiving it. In it, an elderly woman claimed that apples she kept on her back deck were being taken at night. When she tried to find out who or what was taking them, she snapped her camera into the darkness two times and revealed what appears to be an enormous creature in her back yard. You can read her full letter below.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Enclosed please find some pictures I took in late September or early Oct of 2000. My husband says he thinks it is an orangutan. Is someone missing an orangutan? It is hard to judge from the photos how big this orangutan really is. It is in a crouching position in the middle of standing up from where it was sitting. It froze as soon as the flash went off. I didn’t even see it as I took the first picture because it was so dark. As soon as the flash went off for the second time it stood up and started to move. I then heard the orangutan walk off into the brushes. From where I was standing, I judge it as being about six and a half to seven feet tall in a kneeling position. As soon as I realized how close it was I got back to the house. It had an awful smell that lasted well after it had left my yard. The orangutan was making deep “woomp” noises. It sounded much farther away then it turned out to be. If I had known it was as close to the hedge roll as it was I wouldn’t have walked up as close as I did. I’m a senior citizen and if this animal had come out of the hedge roll after me there wasn’t a thing I could have done about it. I was about ten foot away from it when it stood up. I’m concerned because my grandchildren like to come down and explore in my back yard. An animal this big could hurt someone seriously. For two nights prior, it had been taking apples that my daughter brought down from up north, off our back porch. These pictures were taken on the third night it had raided my apples. It only came back one more night after that and took some apples that my husband had left out in order to got a better look at it. We left out four apples. I cut two of them in half. The orangutan only took the whole apples. We didn’t see it take them. We waited up but eventually had to go to bed. We got a dog back there now and as far as we can tell the orangutan hasn’t been back.

Please find out where this animal came from and who it belongs to. It shouldn’t be loose like this, someone will get hurt. I called a friend that used to work with animal control back up north and he told us to call the police. I don’t want any fuss or people with guns traipsing around behind our house. We live near I75 and I’m afraid this orangutan could cause a serious accident if someone hit it. I once hit a deer that wasn’t even a quarter of the size of this animal and totaled my car. As the very least this animal belong in a place like Bush Gardens where it can be looked after properly. Why haven’t people been told that an animal this size is loose? How are people to know how dangerous this could be? If I had known an animal like this was loose I wouldn’t have aprotched [sic] it. I saw on the news that monkeys that get loose can carry Hepatitis and are very dangerous. Please look after this situation. I don’t want my backyard to turn into someone else’s circus.

God Bless

I prefer to remain anonymous

bigfoot skunk ape
Photo via Cryptid Campfire

Researcher Loren Coleman was able to track down where the photographs were developed using the photo processing numbers on the prints, and found that they were processed at Eckerd Photo Lab just off the I-75, possibly not far from where the anonymous witness claimed she saw the creature.

bigfoot skunk ape
Photo via Cryptid Campfire

What’s interesting, if you look at the photos closely, is that whatever the subject is, it appears to be moving. To my eyes, it looks like it steps back after the first flash from the camera. The eyes appear to contract, which would of course happen if exposed to a bright light source. Tapetum lucidem, or eye shine, can also be seen. This improves vision at night, and is common in deer, dogs, cattle and more but not in humans and other primates. The full-toothed expression in the photographs suggest the animal is experiencing fear, though we can’t know for sure.

Is the shine merely a reflection on a plastic eyeball, or is this some undocumented animal living in the forests of Florida? Maybe there was an escaped ape stealing apples that night? It sure doesn’t look like any ape I’ve ever seen. From the looks of it, the animal appears to be at least six or seven feet tall when compared with the trees around it. And it’s crouched. I wonder what it would look like standing up. I wish the palmettos weren’t obscuring it’s features. We would have much more data if they weren’t.

In a letter dated May of 2006 from Mitsuko Choden, a primate specialist in Japan, she revealed that the Myakka ape is a well-known costume featuring plastic teeth with no discernible characteristics typical of great apes. However, no such costume has ever been presented, and any ape costumes searched for in Google do not seem to resemble the subject that was photographed.

The Skunk Ape remains an enigma, but the legend persists, and the allure of this smelly beast will continue to beckon researchers and adventurers into the heart of the untamed Florida swamps for years to come. Maybe they’ll find an escaped orangutan, an unknown cryptid, or a guy in a cheap Japanese monkey suit. Maybe it’s just some dude on bath salts. But perhaps the mystery is bigger than that.

There have quite literally been hundreds of sighting of these things in the last 50 years, but little photographic evidence. This is the case with Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest, Yeti of the Himalayas, the Borneo Wild Man, Australia’s Yowie, China’s Yeren, the Ohio Grassman, Orang Pendek in Sumatra, Indonesia, and dozens of others. I’m reminded of the work of UFO researchers Ryan Musgrave Evans and the late Mac Tonnies, who talked of a race of creatures who are in fact living on earth, but are hidden to us. Musgrave Evans mentions a race called the Majeena, or Wandjina.

bigfoot skunk ape
Image credit: Tanner Rush

They are the Tall Whites mentioned in the works of Charles James Hall, cryptoterrestrials who live deep underground and in our oceans as well. They travel around in gleaming ships, and wear something Musgrave Evans calls Boas Suits, named after Antonio Bilas-Boas, a Brazilian farmer who claimed he was abducted by aliens in 1957. These Boas Suits can float, fly, and walk through walls.  They are also able to telepathically induce fear-inspiring assaults, and to holographically project something Musgrave Evans calls Transient Life Forms (TLFs) that are solid, holographical entities designed entirely for intimidation. If you’re still with me, let’s go a little deeper.

So, what if we stumble across an area that these CTs are inhabiting. They tend to live in remote areas: forests, deserts, oceans. Places we are not. So maybe when we’re in a place we shouldn’t be, far from civilization, and we get too close to them, maybe they put the fear of God into us by showing us a monster of some kind. It could be a Bigfoot, a chupacabra, a Dover Demon, a Mokele-mbembe, Grootslang, Mothman, Jersey Devil, or Fresno Nightcrawler. It could be some foul-smelling, ten-foot-tall primate with giant jaws and eyes that gleam in the night.

Perhaps there is some grand unified theory to explain the world of the paranormal. But it’s a funny thing, that world. The closer you get to it, the more complex and confusing it seems to be.  

Have you had your apples stolen by a Skunk Ape?  Message me on Instagram @beyondthebeyond1

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Eastern Sierra Now. Readers are encouraged to conduct further research and consult with relevant experts or professionals before making any decisions or taking any actions based on the information provided in this article.

Catch up on more “Beyond the Beyond” here.

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