100 Bigfoot Nights (book 1)

Ch. 1 The Unforgettable Howl

          It all started with a howl, and to this day, we regret having heard it. It was fall of 2012—October 13, to be exact—when my husband, Dean, decided it was time to set up our traditional Halloween display. He spent the day decorating the front yard with our Halloween décor, which consisted of a graveyard, a blow-up hearse, ghosts, and many skeletons. We always added to our display each year, and this year it was an eight-foot inflatable tree with a ghost attached and glowing bones for the graveyard. Dean decided to place the inflatable tree on the front porch so it looked like the ghost and ghoulish tree were attacking the house. It was late afternoon by the time he finished, and I went outside to see it. As usual, Dean did a wonderful job but needed to wait for nightfall to finish the display.         
          That evening, I was enjoying the warmth of being inside, cuddled on the couch while watching my favorite television show. Dean decided to finish the outside lighting. He had several large spotlights that needed to be adjusted to enhance the special effects. Throwing on his camouflaged coat, he headed outside. Fifteen minutes later, he came back into the house, leaned over to me, and asked, “Do you want to hear something really strange coming from the forest?”
          Curious, I replied, “What is it?”
          “It’s something I’ve never heard before.”
          “Well, what does it sound like?” I asked, not wanting to go out into the cold.
          “It’s hard to explain. Just come outside and hear it,” he replied with the strangest look on his face.
          Intrigued, I had to go outside. I’ve never known Dean to be without words to describe something—it had to be bizarre. On our way to the front door, Dean retrieved and loaded one of his pistols, which was rather alarming.
          As we walked across the front porch, I immediately heard what Dean could not describe—a bellowing, mournful howl coming from the forest across the street. It was a sound I, too, had never heard before—an emotional howl of great despair and tragedy, in a pitch so loud it engulfed the forest, making it difficult to pinpoint its origin. We walked toward the driveway and stood by the back of our car nearest the forest. Two more howls resonated as we stared into the abyss of the woods. When it finally stopped, we were stunned, standing in the dark, listening to the silence.
          I whispered, “What the hell was that?”
          He said, “It’s not a coyote or a dog. I don’t recognize it. What do you think it is?”
          I agreed it was not one of those animals, yet it was an animal. None came to mind, but, whatever it was; it was in great pain and sounded close. After a few more minutes of listening to silence and not having any kind of explanation, I blurted out, “Well, it must be some kind of hurt animal, and it’s howling because it’s trapped or injured.” I tried logically to explain it.
          Dean must have seen something when he went outside, so I asked him what happened, and he told me. He was sitting in the middle of our front lawn, about ten feet from the street, adjusting the main spotlight, when he heard the howl. It came from the forest behind him, and at first he brushed it off as his mind and ears deceiving him until it bellowed once more.
          He said, “I turned around and looked at the forest, and I didn’t see anything. I stopped what I was doing to listen and watch for movement. Then it happened again. I knew something was not right about the howl; it was so loud, and I couldn’t recognize it. It sounded close, so I stood up and started moving toward the front door, wishing I had my pistol on me. It howled two more times as I crossed the front porch to get into the house. I kept my eyes on the forest the whole time but nothing moved. I went to get you because I couldn’t identify it and I thought, ‘Christine’s got to hear this.”
          “What do you think it is?” I asked, wanting some type of answer.
          “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out,” he said as he opened the car door and reached in to press the button to open the garage door to get a flashlight.
          I followed him but went into the house and yelled for our youngest son, Jack, to help us. He’s twenty-two years old. I told him there was an injured animal howling in the forest and we were going to search for it. Jack, being the animal lover that he is, quickly came downstairs and grabbed a flashlight, eager to help any way he could. With flashlights in hand, we all crossed the street and headed toward the forest path. We were somewhat cautious but far too curious not to follow up on the unknown animal howl.
          Dean and I cautiously entered the forest only a few feet while Jack, who was told something was injured, ran deep down the forest path until we could no longer see the light of his flashlight. An eerie silence befell the forest. We could hear only the sounds of our footsteps as we walked through the leaves, weaving our flashlights back and forth looking for any signs of movement. The smell of autumn leaves, dirt, and pine nettles filled the air around us with whiffs of an unknown odor. Suddenly, I stopped. I had a weird feeling of being watched. I quickly realized this was a mistake as my thoughts turned to Jack and his disappearance deep into the darkness. Fearing for his safety, I yelled for him but could hear only a faint reply somewhere down the path. I expressed to Dean my need to leave the woods and to call for Jack to come back. He did, and Jack returned, to my relief.
          I convinced them it was too dark and too uncertain to continue searching the woods. We came out of the forest and back on to the street. Jack asked what was wrong; he sensed my concern as I stood quietly staring at the forest with my arms crossed. I explained to him that something strange was happening; the forest should not have been that quiet. Now disturbed by the howl, Dean and I stood in the street and discussed it while Jack paced along the forest front, shining his flashlight into it and hoping the animal would howl again.
          We saw the headlights from a car as it came around the corner; it drove slowly and stopped in front of us. It was our next-door neighbors Mike; his wife, Carla; and their daughter, Sara, on their way home from dinner. They stopped to ask what we were doing standing in the street. We told them we heard a strange howl coming from the forest but couldn’t explain what animal made it. We talked for a few minutes, and they wished us luck and went home. It was very dark and chilly, so after an hour or so, we decided to go back into the house, even though we had no answers—only a mystery to solve. 
          What type of animal could make such a disturbing howl so close to our home? It was a haunting question about a howl so deep and emotional it would make a baritone opera singer envious. Something large was bellowing from the forest, and I was determined to find out what it was.
          The next day, I went online to search for the unidentified animal that howled in the forest. After a few hours of searching the internet and listening to many animal howls, I became frustrated and wanted to give up. Jack noticed I was exasperated, so he came into the office to help. I described to him again the intense magnitude of the howl and even tried desperately to mimic it. He began to search the web while I sat on the couch across from him, exhausted from my futile searches. He played a wide range of animal howls and kept asking whether they matched. I would say louder, deeper, or no. After many tries, he finally played a recording and said, “Listen to this mournful howl.”
          I listened, and to my surprise, he had found it—it was a match, but the only difference was the howl we heard was much louder and clearer! I jumped from the couch with a huge smile on my face, wanting to give him a big hug and kiss.
          Relieved and thrilled to finally have an answer, I yelled, “You found it! What kind of animal is it?”
          He had a curious look on his face and hesitantly said, “A recording of a Bigfoot in Ohio, in 1994.”
          His words hit me like a ton of bricks. My joy turned to complete shock as I struggled to make sense of it. I couldn’t believe what he had just said, so I immediately asked whether he was kidding.
          He replied, “I’m not joking; it’s a Bigfoot howl.”
          I hurried to the computer in disbelief to see whether the recording was legit. Numb, I just stood there, staring at the computer as he played the howl repeatedly. 
          Completely bewildered, I asked, “What made you think of a Bigfoot?”
          Jack said he was getting tired of me saying no to every howl so he played the Bigfoot one as a last resort. It kept coming up on the search engine when he typed in animal moans and howls, among other things. I knew what he was referring to because I too had seen it when I searched, but I ignored it because it seemed outrageous. He searched for other Bigfoot howls and played them too, but the Ohio 1994 howl was the closest match.
          I felt light-headed and had to sit down as my mind raced through the events from the previous night. In order to verify the howl, we quickly called Dean into the office so he could hear it. Jack played the howl for him twice.
          Dean listened very carefully and answered, “Yes, that’s it, except the one I heard was louder. Great, you found it! What type of animal is it?”
          Jack told him, and Dean just stood there staring at us for a moment. I think he thought we were joking. I was speechless and didn’t know what to say.
          He said, “Well, that’s what it sounded like,” as he left the room to finish what he was doing.
          I don’t know exactly what he was thinking, but it was nearly impossible to believe a Bigfoot was across the street. I thought, “A Bigfoot? What the hell? Are you kidding?” This revelation was more than I could handle. I felt like my ears were going to explode, so I told Jack not to play it anymore. He could clearly see this was very disturbing to me, so he left the room and went upstairs, happy that he finally heard the incredible howl.
          I sat in the office for a while, thinking this could not be happening and there was no way it could be true. Bigfoots don’t live in a suburban neighborhood literally five minutes from the main street of town and the freeway. We didn’t live high up in the mountains where they are sighted. Yes, our home was on a corner at the end of the street and there was a forest across from us, but a Bigfoot? How ridiculous.
          After my initial shock came the denial as I tried to reason with myself. The internet recording in Ohio was supposed to be a Bigfoot howling, but how does anyone really know? It could be some other unidentified creature. Just because they say it is, does that make it true? Not wanting to believe, I struggled to reason with it, but I had no other explanation for the howl, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t explain it away.
          As I began to accept the possibility, I thought how ironic it all seemed because my entire fear of the forest had been based on Bigfoots. I had spent my whole life trying to avoid running into one. I always believed in their existence and had an unnatural fear of them. I refused to go camping, walking, or driving on dark roads surround by forest because I was deathly afraid of them lurking in it.
          When Dean returned to the office, I asked him what he thought about it.
          He said, “Well, I guess there’s a Bigfoot across the street.”
          I nearly lost it and became emotional. He basically said the wrong thing. I wanted his reassurance that there was not a Bigfoot in the forest—not to mention he seemed disinterested! He quickly realized my concern and sat quietly as I again tried desperately to convince myself this was not true. He listened for a while, tried to comfort me, by agreeing to everything I said and then we went to bed. Dean and I have been married thirty years, so he knew how to reassure me
          I couldn’t really blame Dean for not feeling the way I did. He was retired Army, so he had seen and done a lot and little surprised him anymore. In the military, he held many positions that involved being in the forest after dark. As a child, he went camping every summer, and he had hunted in the past. He obviously was not afraid of the forest or even a Bigfoot being in it. Needless to say, he had no problem sleeping—unlike me.