What’s out there?

Paranormal investigator Chris McDaniel holds up a cast he made of a footprint in the Crosley State Fish and Wildlife Area near North Vernon, Dec. 6. Along with his wife, Vonda, seated behind him, McDaniel went to Crosley to investigate reports of a "dogman."
Paranormal investigator Chris McDaniel holds up a cast he made of a footprint in the Crosley State Fish and Wildlife Area near North Vernon, Dec. 6. Along with his wife, Vonda, seated behind him, McDaniel went to Crosley to investigate reports of a “dogman.”

Is there something peculiar in the woods around Brown County?

Chris McDaniel, a Hoosier paranormal investigator, is keeping his eyes and options open.

The heavily wooded areas of southern Indiana are rife with reports and sightings of unexplained creatures and paranormal sightings, McDaniel said.

Morgan-Monroe State Forest, which touches Brown County, is a particular hotspot. In 2015 in southern Indiana, McDaniel received about eight reports of sightings that resemble the description commonly associated with Bigfoot.

In the neighborhood

On his website, indianabigfootreports.com, McDaniel posted a story about a Brown County family’s unexplained encounter in 2013.

Sitting by a fire, a man spotted a silhouette in the woods, as if a stalking figure was watching him, McDaniel said. Around that same time, other family members began experiencing “peculiar nightly activity.”

After that, none of them would venture outside after dark, McDaniel said.

McDaniel was unable to find any evidence such as prints, and a trail camera he set up for several weeks yielded no results. But when he returned a year later, he found something he could not explain.

Near an area of flattened grass, he found a dead coyote, its leg broken and ribcage crushed. On his site, McDaniel has pictures of what he believes could be a muddy, 14-inch-long footprint on the coyote’s ribcage.

“I’ve never seen anything myself, other than prints,” said McDaniel, who continues to study Bigfoot rumors and reports.

A big foot

In December, he visited Trail Hobo in downtown Nashville to promote his book, “Spooky Reports of Strange Encounters.” He brought a strange print with him.

About an hour southeast of Brown County, in Crosley State Fish and Wildlife Area, a young boy reported being chased out of the area by a bipedal creature that dropped down on all fours to chase him, McDaniel said.

A police officer from that area — who asked McDaniel to remain anonymous — told him that multiple times over several years, he had seen something that fit the description of the “Crosley Monster,” an 8-foot tall, hairy, upright-walking creature rumored to lurk in the wildlife area.

McDaniel said the description shares some common attributes with other “cryptids,” like the “Dogman” and werewolves.

McDaniel traveled to Crosley with his wife, Vonda. They came across two large footprints, McDaniel said.

At the Nashville bookstore event, he showed a casting of one of them.

“I thought it was kind of an odd lookin’ print, because it has nothing like toes; it’s more like claws,” he said.

Noise in the night

McDaniel also shared a story from the Paoli area. It took place near the Hoosier National Forest, which also reaches into Brown County.

A man who was up late at night heard his neighbor’s dog barking and stepped onto his back porch to find out why. Under a bright winter moon, the man could see the dog leaping in the tall grass, following a creature.

Recounting the event to McDaniel, the man declined to name what he saw as more than “a thing.” It walked upright through the grass, about 30 yards from the man, with the dog following and barking.

Then, it stopped, turned and crouched to the dog’s level, the man told McDaniel. A deep, low growl sent the dog retreating, and the creature disappeared into the woods.

When the man told his wife, McDaniel said, she admitted she had been frightened the night before by a sound like screaming right outside their house.

On the edges

Jim Eagleman has served as Brown County State Park interpretive naturalist for the past 40 years. In that time, he did not receive any reports of strange creatures lurking or experience any encounters himself, he said.

Asked if some common animals could emit calls people do not recognize, Eagleman said it is very possible.

Depending on the season or circumstance, Eagleman said, even well-known animals can produce strange sounds.

“There may be such a variety in the call, depending on the season, such as the mating season, their group behavior — sure, there’s different kinds of sounds and calls that could be heard through the woods that could easily be mistaken for something else,” he said.

Out there?

McDaniel doesn’t have any conclusions, mostly questions.

As a paranormal investigator who has had his most convincing personal encounters in haunted buildings and cemeteries, he does not rule out the possibility all of those happenings could be connected.

Still, he noted that the mountain gorilla was once thought to be only a myth. Though pandas were never considered mythical, they evaded capture or even documentation for about 60 years, and the Saola, a small deer-like animal from Vietnam with gill-like slits along its nostril, was only discovered in 1992.

McDaniel is open to the thought that some strange things people see could be the result of projections from another dimension.

His ultimate motive goes back to experiences he and friends had in Stepp Cemetery, near Martinsville, when they were teenagers. What began as something to do for entertainment took a sinister turn in 1985, when McDaniel said a friend was dragged across the ground by an unseen force.

“I started being more intrigued, you know, wanting to know the answers to ‘Why?'” he said. “‘Why’s this happening?'”

More close encounters?

About a dozen websites come up in an online search for “Indiana Bigfoot.” One of them, bfro.net, shows Brown County tied for third place with the most reported sightings in the state.

The most recent report was in August 2015 by an experienced camper at Yellowwood State Forest. Around 1 a.m., he and his wife were awoken by a “very deep howling noise, but it wasn’t a dog or coyote,” and then, “something off in the distance mimicked it both times.”

Bigfoot investigator Matt Euler determined the couple had heard two Sasquatch calling to each other and noted a “historical trend of activity in this area” for more than 60 years.

Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.